Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance
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“I do not think I do, Rose.”
“It means men rushing through life, pushing and being pushed, splashing and being splashed, caring for nothing but money, willing to give up every book that was ever written, from Homer to Kipling, for a ‘rise’ of twenty cents. I will except the Bible; for your broker, as a general thing, respects God, though he does give his life to Mammon.”
Thus they chattered on every subject which touched, or was likely to touch, their lives. And just before dark Yanna rose and lit the lamps, and Betta came in and swept the hearth, and piled more logs on the fire, and then brought in the tea tray. It was not then long before Peter and Antony came in together, and found Rose snugly resting herself in Peter’s big chair. Her fair head made a light among its crimson shadows, and her little feet were stretched out before the blaze on a crimson cushion. The position was not an accidental one. Rose knew it was becoming, and when Antony stood entranced and speechless, he only paid her the compliment she expected. Then there was a pretty little scene with Peter. She acknowledged her invasion of his rights, and insisted on placing him in his own chair; and this she did with so many charming words and attitudes that both Peter and Antony were delighted to be obedient to the lovely despot.
In fact, she had purposely come to win all hearts, and to leave behind herself a memory without a shadow; and Yanna was womanly and sweet, and divined her intent, and helped her to accomplish it. She put out of her mind her own disappointment; she rose to her highest cheerfulness, she made opportunities for Rose to exhibit all the best and cleverest sides of her character; and until she had sent her away shawled, and wrapped, and safely tucked in by Antony’s side, she never suffered her heart to fail her.
Not even then; for Peter had to discuss the visit and the visitor, and he did so with an interest that astonished Yanna, for she was not aware that her father regarded Rose, not only as an hereditary Van Hoosen, but also as a future daughter-in-law. Afterwards he had to tell Yanna about the horse, and the man who had the horse to sell. “No created creatures,” he said, “are so eulogized as horses are by their owners. And when a man has a horse to sell, you would think, Yanna, that horse flesh was better than human nature. However, I bought the animal, and as Antony says, if it is half as good as warranted, I have bought a horse with which I can live happy ever after.”
In such homelike confidence the hours passed, until at length the moment came which released Yanna from her self-imposed repression and her gracious office of happiness-maker. She had not grudged the effort, and she had not missed the strength and consolation which any healthy self-denial imparts. “Your merry heart goes all the day.” Yes, and this truth came from one who knew how much a merry heart may have to carry. But once within her own room she let all go – all her heartache, all her wounded love, and wounded self-esteem.She had hoped, she had surely 98 thought, that Harry would come again; and all that day her ear and eyes had been on the watch.
Yes, it had been —
The watch was over; and she was so weary that she could not weep nor think nor pray. She could only send one tired hope upward, whose whole plea was —
Now Yanna was built silently on her trust in God, and on the strength of her day’s work. Hitherto, her trust in God had been very like that of a child who takes its father’s love as easily and carelessly as its daily bread. But her disappointment in Harry had made her cling to the Never-Failing One with more intelligent reliance. Certainly the loss of confidence in her lover and his palpable shortcoming had left her shaken to her inmost being; but she was still erect. No dropping of daily duty! No folding of her hands to weep! No enervating luxury of self-pity troubled this girl, whose feet stood on the rock of Eternal Love, and who had the healthy habit of her ancestors – a frank, unconscious way of doing her household tasks, without incessantly looking after her heart, or making inquiry of her feelings.
True, her ear and heart were on the watch for the sound of one step, and one voice; and she would have been most happy if that ache of listening had been answered. But the morning passed, and Harry neither came nor yet sent any message. She dared 99 not hope that the afternoon would be more fortunate, and yet surely, surely, he would not leave her without any attempt to make the future possible. Soon after dinner her anxieties were complicated by a message from Mrs. Wyk, an infirm lady who was related to Yanna by her mother’s side, and to whom Yanna was accustomed to render many services. Mrs. Wyk sent a messenger to say that “she had a new novel, and she wanted Yanna to come and read it to her.”
Yanna was much disturbed by the decision she was now compelled to make. If she went to Mrs. Wyk’s Harry might call while she was from home, and then he would be certain her absence was premeditated. Yet if she did not go to Mrs. Wyk’s, she would neglect an evident duty for an uncertain personal pleasure; and then, if Harry did not come, she would have disappointed her relative, she would “be out” with herself, and yet have done nothing towards being reconciled to her lover. The child who brought the message stood looking at her impatiently. It was near the school hour, and the answer was to be taken back, and Yanna was one of those women who hate to be hurried.
She could not decide with that restless boy looking into her eyes and standing on tiptoes to be gone. She said, “Wait a moment, Willie,” and she ran into the parlor, shut the door, and stood silently in the darkened room to consider. Her hands hung clasped before her, her eyes were cast down, and in a painful suspense of self-seeking, she asked her heart, “What shall I do? What shall I do?” Thus she waited; wistful, intent, sorrowful, until the answer came. It came from her own conscience:
“One can always do right!”
“True!” She accepted the response immediately. “One can always do right! That settles the most difficult question. And it is right to put the pleasure of the sick and aged before my own pleasure. I will go and read to Aunt Wyk.”
She thought it no violation of duty, however, to hurry her departure, and thus be able to get the reading finished by three o’clock. Then she began to put on her hat and cloak, and Mrs. Wyk said: “What are you in such a hurry for, Yanna? Sit down, I want to tell you about my winter apples. I have been so badly used by old Van Winkle.”
“I am in a hurry this afternoon, auntie. The Filmers are leaving Woodsome, and I think some of them will want to see me. Rose was at our house yesterday – but – ”
“Oh, yes! the Filmers! the Filmers! Nobody but the Filmers! Your own mother’s kin is not to be thought of if the Filmers but ring at your doorstep.”
“Dear auntie, you should not talk in that way. I will come to-morrow afternoon and finish the book.”
“Thank you! But the Filmers may want you.” And the old lady made no response to Yanna’s kiss, nor did she answer her twice repeated “Good afternoon, aunt.”
It was precisely such a result as most frequently follows a conscious exercise of self-denial; but it depressed and vexed Yanna. Her cheeks flushed to the sense of wrong, and she could hardly keep the tears out of her eyes, as she walked swiftly homeward. When she was nearly at her own gate, she heard the rattle of the Filmer dog-cart, and her heart beat rapidly, and she began instinctively to hurry her footsteps, and then consciously to moderate them to her 101 normal pace. Should she turn her face to the passing vehicle or not? The question was quickly answered. Not to do so would be pettishly self-cognizant. It stopped when near her, and she turned towards it. Harry flung the reins to his servant, and in a moment was at her side.
“I was just coming to see you, Yanna. May I walk home with you? Or has your father forbidden you to receive my visits?”
“That would be very unlike father, Harry. He leaves your visits to your own sense of honor; and to my loyalty to his wishes. I think he can trust both.”
“I have been so utterly wretched since I saw you last, my dear.”
“I have not been happy, Harry.”
“Yanna, I am going into a life full of excitement and temptation. Will you not straighten me for it by the promise I ask for?”
“Have you spoken to Mrs. Filmer again?”
“How could I? You know what a state of turmoil we have been in. But just as soon as we are settled in New York, I mean to have a good talk with mother about our marriage.”
“Then if she is willing for our engagement – our public engagement – you can come and tell father so; and you know how happy I shall be.”
“If our engagement should be made known in Woodsome, do you think it would reach New York?”
“Yes. Half a dozen of our Woodsome families are in New York some part of every winter. But that is not the question. What cannot be known in New York cannot be known in Woodsome. I should not like my Woodsome friends to believe we were engaged, if in New York they constantly met you behaving as if 102 we were not engaged. If you have any imagination, you can see what a painful position a half-engagement would put me in.”
“Now, Yanna, you are getting impossible again. You will not do anything to meet me. In disagreements, people generally each ‘give in’ a little.”
“Not on such a question as this. I will have all of love’s honor and service, or I will have none of it. I hate secrecy in anything, I fear it in love. Besides, my father says, it is a wrong to me. His decision includes mine, Harry.”
“Then I suppose my visit is utterly useless. Mother said it would be.”
“So you have been talking to Mrs. Filmer again?”
“Oh! you do press a poor distracted man so hardly! Mother talked to me. And she seems a little bitter about you. What did you say to her, Yanna?”
“Ask her what she said to me, Harry.”
“Of course, I shall work with all my power to get our engagement on a footing to please you, Yanna. But you know, a mother is a mother, and it is hard to go against her when she is working for the good of your sister, and your family, and all that; and – ”
“Our engagement! We are not engaged!” They were at the door by this time, and Yanna said: “Will you come in, Harry?”
“Of course I will come in. What do you mean by saying, ‘We are not engaged’? You said you loved me. You said you would marry me. Is not your promise an engagement?”
“Only under certain conditions; which conditions you are not willing to fulfil.”
“Not able! not able! Yanna.”
“Nonsense! If you are man enough to ask a 103 woman to be your wife, you ought to be man enough to do it with all customary honors. There is no use in further discussion, Harry. From the position I have taken, I cannot, in justice to myself, move a hair’s breadth.”
“Is a man not to honor his mother, and help her, and so on?”
“A man is to honor his mother with all his heart. He is to help her in every way he can; but he is also to honor the woman he asks to be his wife. It is a poor rose-tree that can only bear one perfect rose; it is a poor heart that has room only for one perfect love; – but I will not even seem to plead, for what ought to be rendered with the utmost spontaneity. We had better say ‘Good-bye!’”
She rose with quiet dignity, and stood with an expectant air. Harry also rose, and began to button his gloves, and as he did so, said: “Surely, you will write to me! I do not hope for love letters, but just sometimes a few kind, wise words! You will write, Yanna?”
“It would not be prudent. It would not be right.”
“Prudent! Right! Oh, Yanna! How provoking you can be!”
“It would not be good form, then. Do you understand that better?”
“You will do nothing for me?”
She did not answer. She was very pale, her eyes were cast down, her mouth trembled, her hand clasped nervously the back of the chair by which she stood. She did not dare to look at Harry. He was so troubled, so reproachful, so handsome.
“Will you at least shake hands, Yanna?” he asked, coming to her side. Then she looked into his face, 104 and he held her a moment to his heart, as with kisses on her sweet, sad mouth, he murmured, “Yanna! Yanna!” ere he went hastily away.
And as soon as he was gone, a quick realization of all she had lost, or resigned, reproached her. The most beautiful points in Harry’s character came to the front – his love, his generous temper, his kindness to women, his cheerfulness, his physical beauty and grace, his fine manners! Oh, he had been in so many respects a most charming lover! No other could ever fill his place. Even his fault towards her had sprung from a virtue, and though in its development it showed him to be lacking in just perceptions and strength of character, were these indeed unpardonable faults?
This was the trend of her feeling in the first moments of her misery; and it was followed by a sentiment very like anger. She sat still as if turned into stone. All her life seemed to be suddenly behind her, and her future only a blank darkness. “And it is my own fault!” she thought passionately. “The bird that sang in my heart all summer long has flown away; but it was my own hand that sent it out into the world, and there, doubtless, some other woman, more loving and less wise, will open her heart to its song. Alas! alas!” And a great wave of love drifted her off her feet; she lost all control of her feelings, and sobbed as despairingly as the weakest and most loving of her sex could have done.
In the meantime, Harry was making himself utterly wretched in much the same manner. The presence of a servant being intolerable, he sent his man on a message to the express office, and then, as he drove homeward, deliberately tortured himself with a consideration of all the sweet beauty, and all the sweet 105 nature, he had lost. “And what for?” he asked, with that quick temper which is one of the first symptoms of disappointed love. “That Rose may have more dances, and a little more ?clat, and that I may play the elegant host at my mother’s teas. Father ought to do the civil thing in his own house. It is too bad that he does not do so. It is not fair to him. People must talk about it. As for writing a book! Pshaw! Nobody considers that any excuse for neglecting social duties – and it is not!”
He shook the reins impatiently to this decision, and then suddenly became aware of a bit of vivid coloring among the leafless trees. It was dusk, but not too dark to distinguish Rose’s figure, wrapped in her red cloak, with the bright hood drawn over her head. She was leaning on Antony Van Hoosen, and Harry walked his horses and watched the receding figures. Their attitude was lover-like, and they were so absorbed in each other that they were blind and deaf to his approach.
“Oh – h – h! So that is the way the wind blows! What a shame for Rose to take a heart like that of Antony Van Hoosen’s for a summer plaything! I know exactly how she is tormenting the poor fellow – telling him that she loves him, but that this, and that, and the other, prevent the possibility, etc., etc., – killing a man while he looks up adoringly, and thanks her for it. Poor Antony! Such a good, straightforward fellow! And I know Rose means no more than she means when she pets her poodle. Well, thank goodness! Yanna did not try to make a fool of me. She is, at least, above that kind of meanness. She has a heart. And she is suffering to-night, as much as I am – and I hope she is! She ought to! – Well, Thomas, 106 how did you get here before me? Been at the express office?”
“Yes, sir. Nothing there, sir. I met Jerry coming from the mail, and he gave me a lift.”
Then Harry threw down the reins, and went into the house. It looked very desolate, wanting the precious Lares and ornaments which Mrs. Filmer took with her wherever she meant to dwell for any time. She was accustomed to say that “there were certain things in every family which took on the family character, and which gave the family distinction to their home.” “It is the miniatures and the carved ivories, and the little odds and ends of old furniture and of our own handiwork, that give the Filmer-y look to the house,” she had said that afternoon to Rose, who was fretting at the “uselessness of dragging the old-fashioned things to and from the city, when they had now a home of their own in the country.”
The whole tone of the house was fretful and restless; the halls were crowded with trunks; the dinner was belated; and Mrs. Filmer had a nervous headache, and was weary and suffering. She looked reproachfully at Harry when he came to the table, and Harry understood the look. He had been needed, and he had not been present, and the newly roused sense of his father’s responsibility made him answer the look relatively.
“It is too bad that you have everything to do, mother. Why do you let father sneak away to the city?”
“Do not talk absurdly, Harry. Your father did not ‘sneak away.’ You know I begged him to go. The disturbance of the ball and the packing after it would have knocked him to pieces for the whole winter.”
At this moment Rose entered. She was radiant and innocent-looking, and full of apologies for her three minutes’ tardiness; and she answered Harry’s keen, interrogative look with one of such guileless listlessness that Harry was compelled to wonder whether it really had been his sister in the wood at that hour. All dinner time his thoughts wandered round this uncertainty and the certainty that Antony, at least, was a positive case. And then, if it was not Rose, whom could Antony have been making love to? For Harry had no doubts as to the occupation of the couple.
When they were alone, Harry suddenly turned to his sister and asked: “What were you doing in the wood so late this evening, Rose?”
“Me! In the wood?”
“Were you not in the wood with Antony Van Hoosen?”
She shrugged her shoulders scornfully and answered: “Mamma can tell you what I have been doing all afternoon.”
“Indeed, I can, Harry. Rose has had to look after many things you might have attended to for her; but then, Rose,” added Mrs. Filmer, turning her head languidly to her daughter, “there were the Van Hoosens to look after. Your brother is mad that way. If he cannot see the girl, he fancies he sees her brother. Thank heaven, we shall be rid of them to-morrow!”
“Oh, mamma! I think you too have Yanna and Antony on your brain.”
“Well, Rose, I have undergone them all summer; and I may now say frankly that I do not like them.”
“You have a sick headache, dear mamsie. Do go to bed. Shall I help you? No? Well, then, I will go myself. For I am tired, and so forth.”
She went off with a kiss, and an airy recommendation to follow her good example; and Harry rose as if to obey it. His mother opened her heavy eyes and said: “Wait a few minutes, Harry, my dear. You look miserable. You eat nothing. You have been to see Yanna. Can you not let that girl alone?”
“The girl has let me alone. She has refused even to write to me. I am miserable. And I do not feel as if anything, as if anything on earth, can atone for the loss of Yanna’s love.”
“Not even my love?”
“That is a thing by itself. It is different. I understand to-night what is meant by a broken heart.”
“The feeling does not last, Harry. In New York you will soon wonder at yourself for enduring it an hour – these bare dripping woods, this end-of-all-things feeling, is a wretched experience; – but a broken heart! Nonsense!”
“Mother, there is no use talking. I am miserable; and I do think that you are to blame.”
“You have wounded Yanna’s feelings in some way, I know.”
“Yanna’s feelings!” cried Mrs. Filmer.
“Yes; and they are very precious to me; more so than my own feelings.”
“Or than mine? Speak out, Harry. Be as brutal as you want to be. I might as well know the worst now as again.”
“I do not care for New York. I do not care for the preparations you have made. I will not go out at all. I have given myself to this society nonsense, because it pleased you, mother; but I can do so no longer. How can I dress, and dance, and make compliments 109 when I wish I were dead? Yes, I do! Life has not a charm left.”
“Your father, your sister!”
“Oh, mother! they are not Yanna. If you are perishing for water, wine will not take its place.”
“You are very ungrateful, and if I call you ungrateful I can call you nothing worse. Remember how I have planned and saved; how I have bowed here, and becked there, in order to gain the social position we now enjoy. Without my help, would you have got into the best clubs? Would you visit in the houses where you are now welcome?”
“I know; but I do not value these things. Yanna has taught me better.”
“Harry, you make me lose all patience. It is a shameful thing to tell me now, after my labor, after you have reaped the harvest of it, that you do not care; to put that Van Hoosen girl in the place of all your social advantages, and of all your kindred. It is outrageous! Why, the man I bought my chickens from was a Van Hoosen! And I was so magnanimous that I never named it to Miss Van Hoosen. Any other lady would have asked her if he was a relative, just for the pleasure of setting her down a little. I did not.”
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