Was It Right to Forgive? A Domestic Romance
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“You might easily have asked Yanna. She has no false pride.”
“Now, Harry, you have exhausted my patience. We will have no more of this ‘Yanna’ nonsense, if you please. I have had as much Van Hoosen as I can endure.”
“My dear mother, your husband is a Van Hoosen. Ask father if it is not so. Father, and Rose, and I are descended from the daughter of the first American Peter Van Hoosen; and Yanna is descended from his 110 son. That is all the difference. We are the same family.”
“Do not be absurd!”
“I do think you might have a little pity for me. I am suffering in every nerve. I am trembling, and faint, and utterly worn out, both in mind and body; and then you come and wound me in my dearest loves and hopes; stab after stab. But I am only your loving, foolish mother! I am not Yanna! and – and – ” Then she rose, looking steadily at Harry the while. And she really was ill and suffering. Distress, physical and mental, was written on every feature; her eyes were tearless, but full of anguish; and she was hardly able to stand when she rose to her feet. What could Harry do? His anger vanished. His sense of injustice vanished. He went to his mother and comforted her with kisses. He supported her to her room, and so left her, once more absolutely mistress of the situation. But all night long, whether he was asleep or awake, his heart kept up the same longing, pitiful cry of “Yanna! Yanna!”
Yanna was even more miserable. Peter wondered at her fretfulness, until she told him that Harry Filmer had called to say “Good-bye.” She told him with a slight air of injury, and Peter felt that much talk on the subject would then be unwise. He could have reminded her that to those who suffer patiently the suffering is less; but the indulgent love and wisdom of the good old man taught him that there are occasions when it is better to leave the wounded to the strength of silence than to offer them the balm of sympathy. So he listened quietly, while she wished she had been more sure of herself – more sure that Harry was wrong – more 111 sure that she was absolutely right – that she had been more considerate of their different educations – more patient of his shortcomings. All her reproaches of herself tacitly included her father, but Peter knew it was not yet the time to defend himself. He made no reply to her querulous accusations and regretful wishes until she said:
“I trust that when we act foolishly and turn our backs on happiness God will not condemn us to our own choice. I wonder if I pray to God to send me once more the good I refused, if He will hear me?”
“We must never pray merely selfish prayers, Yanna,” answered Peter sadly. “God might be angry enough to grant us our prayers. It is better to say, ‘Thy will be done.’”
Then she rose up hastily and went out of the room, but still more hastily returned, and lifting her father’s head – which was bowed upon his hands – said: “My dear, dear father! My precious father!” And Peter stood up then, and kissed her, and blessed her, and said: “Let the light of His Countenance be upon you, my dearest!”
Was she happy then? Ah, no! Her heart was wounded all over.She felt as if it were bleeding. As she entered her room the picture of the thorn-crowned Saviour met her eyes, and she went close to it, and looked thoughtfully at the Man of Sorrows. Resignation, mournful and simple, yet full of lofty heroism, spoke to her; and the personality of which it was the ideal seemed to fill the room; but she was not comforted. She undressed herself slowly, feeling at length the tears she had so long restrained dropping upon her fingers as they trembled about their duty.
But when she laid her head upon her pillow, and the 112 room was dark and still, suddenly her grief found a voice that she could understand; and she sobbed, “Oh, mother! mother! If you were here this night! If you were only here! You would know how to pity me!” And so sobbing, she went to sleep; and in her sleep she was comforted. For the golden ladder between heaven and earth is not removed; and the angels going to and fro must meet on their road many mothers called earthward by their children’s weeping, and hastening to them “with healing on their wings.”
“All, then, has come to an end; and I feel as if I had buried every sweet day we lived together!” These were Adriana’s first thoughts in the morning. However, she had slept heavily, as God often permits those to sleep for whom sorrow lies in wait; and she was stronger to bear the burden of the days before her. They were very dreary and monotonous for many weeks; for the fall was a wet and sunless one. Yet it was not the heavy atmosphere and the melancholy heavens that depressed her; it was rather the mental and moral drizzle of the household; and for this she was herself much to blame.
She restrained all confidence; she would not talk to her father or brother about the Filmers; she responded to no effort to amuse her, and she would not permit herself to weep. And as tears and laughter and mutual confidence are the means appointed to stay life’s overflow, and to give the full heart ease, she missed the natural comforters of her position. And as she gave no confidence to Antony, Antony also kept his hopes and doubts, his joys and sorrows, to himself. If Adriana had spoken to him of Harry, he would have gladly discussed with her Rose’s heart-breaking ways with him – her advances and retreats, her kindness and her cruelty, her love and her disdain.
But brother and sister alike kept silence, and Peter did not feel at liberty to comfort uncomplained-of 114 suffering; nor yet to offer advice in circumstances of which his children presumed him to be either ignorant or unsympathetic. Nevertheless, he suffered both mentally and really with them; for most houses adopt more or less of the mental aspects of the dwellers in them, and the old happy contentment which had filled Peter’s home with sunshine in all weathers was invaded by many shadows. The order of his life was broken-up, and its very pleasures were robbed of their sweetness. Dinner-time, and bed-time, and all the times and seasons of domestic existence went on undisturbed; and the books were brought out, and Peter read aloud with even an exaggerated interest; but the heart was out of all Adriana’s duties and amusements; and Peter, try as he would, felt it difficult to control a feeling of anger against the strangers who had entered his home only to make those he loved miserable.
For a month Antony vibrated between Woodsome and New York; but finally he resolved to stay in the city. He said something to his father about “western securities, and the opportunity he had for making money in them,” but both Peter and Adriana knew that his real object was Rose Filmer. His desertion had, however, one good result, it made Adriana feel that she must resume her old companionship with her father. She could not now suppose that Antony was with him, or that her father was with Antony, or if they were really together, slip away to her own room, on the presumption they did not want her company in order to discuss the country, or the horses, or the best time to plant.
She accepted the duty with much of her old, sweet cheerfulness. “We are alone again, dear father!” she said, “and I am going to see how happy I can make 115 you.” And Peter’s swift acceptance of this promise, the joy on his face, his ready oblivion of all her neglect, his eager interest in all she proposed, went to her heart like the wine of gladness.
“Suppose I teach you chess, father!”
The proposal made Peter happy as a child. He answered that there was nothing he wished to learn so much. He said he would go to New York that very day for the men and the board – Staunton men and board – nothing cheaper. He kept his word. He brought back the plain, sensible pieces and their mimic battle-field in his hands. He was as enthusiastic a pupil as any teacher could desire, and yet he was brimming with conversation of all that he had seen in the city, and on the train, and the ferry boats. And at last, when the little table was drawn to the hearth and the two sat down to the game, it was wonderful to see how eager and how receptive he was!
“It is the grandest bit of play in the world, Yanna,” he said, when at last the pieces were reluctantly restored to their box. “You have given me one of the happiest evenings I ever had in my life!” and his eyes shone with love and gratitude. “My girl is the best of all girls! May God Almighty bless her!”
And without extenuations or exceptions, Adriana had also one of the happiest evenings of her life. No one can gain a great victory over self and not be happy. Adriana walked upstairs erect, with a smile on her lips, and a glow in her heart, such as she had not felt for many weeks. She undressed with her old alertness and method; she knelt down in happy confidence, feeling that she could ask to be made happy when she had made others happy.
From this brave new beginning, there was no back-sliding – or 116 at least none that Peter was permitted to feel. For Adriana was ashamed of herself when she realized how much of the pleasure of other lives she had sacrificed to her own selfish sorrow. Peter appeared next day to be ten years younger. Betta was bright and busy as a summer bee; the two old house-dogs came back confidently to the rug before the fire; the stable-man got a smile through the window, and then ventured to ask a favor for his wife.
“How cruel I have been!” she said. “How much happiness for others I held in these two hands – and then withheld!” and she spread out her palms, and tried to realize how full they were, and how niggardly she had been of the God-given blessings in them.
But she was no longer so. Whatever effort it cost at first, to put aside her own pain and disappointment, gradually became easy. She did not forget; she only compelled memory to take counsel with justice and generosity. The past, which had usurped the places of both present and future, was gradually relegated to its proper domain; and in the exercise of the willpower necessary for this control of her daily life, she resumed the power to control those higher conditions which relate to the moral and mental existence. In a week the nobler influence ruled, and the ignoble atmosphere of self rarely chilled that confidential communion which ought to exist between all the members of one household.
So the time went on, until it was nearly Christmas. Then, one morning, destiny knocked at Peter’s door, and let in Miss Alida Van Hoosen. She had always been accustomed to call about the New Year, but her visit so much earlier was unexpected, especially as they had been informed some weeks previously by the 117 “Woodsome Local” that Miss Van Hoosen had left her beautiful home for her winter residence in New York City. But her visit, though unexpected, was very welcome to Adriana. For she liked her cousin, and she was heartily glad of any social event to break the monotony of her daily life.
“I saw Cousin Peter in the village as I came through it,” said Miss Alida. “What do men find to talk about? They never seem to be bored in the stupidest place.”
“Oh, cousin, I am so glad to see you! I did not expect you so soon.”
“The logic of events, Adriana! And you cannot oppose their arguments. Selina Zabriski has made up her mind to go to Florida. Now, as you know, I have stayed with Selina for sixteen winters; and her absurdity throws me out into space, as it were.”
“Are you coming back to the country?”
“To the country! In December! No, Adriana. I have rented Selina’s house, and her man-servants, and her maid-servants, her dogs and her cats, her carriages and her horses; and I want you to come and stay with me. Will you?”
“Cousin! It will make me the happiest girl in the world to do so. Do you think father will be willing for me to go?”
“Fathers are persuadable. I have some excellent arguments. I want you, at once, though.”
“I shall be glad to go at once. Still, father will be very lonely. I ought to think of that.”
“Cousin Peter will not let his loneliness interfere with your pleasure, or else I do not know Cousin Peter. And also I think Antony Van Hoosen would be better here than haunting operas and theatres, and 118 every spot by night and day, where Rose Filmer beckons him. Oh! I know that Filmer girl; and the more I think of her the less I think of her. She has Antony’s heart under her foot, and she turns and turns her French heel on it, as if it were a worm. But if Antony must be in New York, he shall have a home from which he may command the Filmers. At least, I shall offer him this advantage.”
“I think so. If there is one thing Emma Filmer aspires to, longs for, covets, and hankers after, it is to step within the charmed chalk circle, which encloses the central reserve of what she calls ‘society.’ Selina Zabriski is one of this potent reserve, and your poor cousin has a kind of, a sort of, a power in it. Oh! I know Emma Filmer! And Henry Filmer, also – poor fellow! In New York we don’t think much of husbands, but we don’t often drive them to writing books about —civilization!”
She was silent for a moment or two, then she resumed: “When I was a slip of a girl, Adriana, I had a ‘thoughtful’ feeling about Henry Filmer. The old Dominie used to say to me, ‘Henry is a good lad, Alida, and there is a kind of providence in the way your lands lie. Land and love is fair matrimony, you may depend upon that, Alida.’”
“Then, cousin, did you once intend to marry Mr. Filmer?”
“As I say, I had got as far as ‘thinking.’ But Henry Filmer wrote poetry, and I am not poetical. Emma Colbert set his poems to music, and sang them! What man could resist such tactics? With her ‘Ohs!’ and her ‘Ahs!’ and her tinkling piano, she took him captive. Poor Henry Filmer! I do not suppose she 119 has sung him a single poem since they were married. So, you see, I might have been your mother-in-law.”
“Yes, it is better ‘cousin’. But there is no need to ‘keep from’ me. I used to see young Filmer and you driving and walking together, and as I have my eyes, and my senses, I may say, as Corporal Nym said in a delicate matter, ‘There must be conclusions!’ Well, I cannot tell!”
Then Adriana opened her heart. This kindly brusque woman had evidently in the past suffered something from Harry’s mother. That made an instant sympathy between them; perhaps, indeed, Alida had divined the trouble, and had told her own experience to induce Adriana’s confidence. At any rate, she gave it freely. She made nothing better, and nothing worse, as regarded Mrs. Filmer’s opposition; but she did unconsciously idealize Harry, and she did make excuses for his pusillanimity.
Miss Alida was disposed to encourage this attitude. In the first place, she found it agreeable to be in opposition to Mrs. Filmer. In the second, she had set her wishes on this union of the two branches of her family. In the third, she had been pleasantly impressed by Harry’s face and manner. She, therefore, encouraged Adriana’s apologies. She said, in the present day it was a wonder to find a young man disposed to put the welfare of his family before his own gratification; and though she admitted Harry to have been prominently “gay,” she considered his attitude as natural an expression of disappointment as Adriana’s gloomy melancholy had been. “You went to the house of mourning, Adriana,” she continued, “and Harry went to the house of feasting; and, my dear, I boldly affirm 120 that in some cases the house of mourning is just as selfish and wicked as the house of feasting. When did you hear from Rose? Has she written to you lately?”
“Yes; but her letters are different. They are not less kind; but they are less confidential.”
“Well, I admire that she writes at all. When I was a girl I durst no more have written to a person whom my mother did not approve than I durst have lifted the fire in my hands. Does she say anything about Antony?”
“Sometimes she fills her letters with Antony; again, she never names him. Her letters have a strange tone, I may say, an indiscreetness that amazes me.”
“She is indiscreet. I hardly know how to say softly enough the words necessary to explain this condition; but the fact is, she ought not to touch wine, and she does touch it. A certain Mr. Duval has a bad influence over Rose Filmer. I never see them together but there is a champagne glass in proximity. Dancing leads them to the wine, and the wine leads them to the dance; and the reiterated transition becomes disagreeable to the onlookers. One night last week I saw Antony go to her, and after a perceptible word of import to Duval, take Miss Filmer away on his arm. The affair was so rapid that few saw it; and fortunately, those few supposed it to be a love quarrel between the men. But I, who am a looker-on in Vanity Fair, often see more than meets the eye; and in this case I had a family feeling both as regards Rose and Antony. In fact, I had gone to that ball specially to observe them.”
“Where was Mrs. Filmer?”
“Mrs. Filmer was devoting herself to a titled English lady. Harry was talking with a pretty widow. 121 None of Rose’s friends, but myself, saw the embryo tragedy. My dear, we are finite creatures, but the tricks we play before high heaven are infinite in their folly and variety. I see Cousin Peter coming. Stand to your wishes, Adriana; and teach your tongue to say what it really wants.”
There was little need for this encouragement. Peter understood what was required of him, and before Miss Alida had finished her request, he was looking into Adriana’s face with a smiling assent. Certainly the assent implied much self-denial; but not altogether self-denial. He was pleased that his daughter should have this great social pleasure; the more so, that she had been practically ignored in all the village festivities. Her education, her tastes and her manner were out of order with the smartness and giggling, setting the tone of the usual sleigh-rides and ice-cream parties. Even the literary society of Woodsome felt ill at ease when airing its learning before her. She had been educated above her surroundings, and it was less unkindness than a principle of self-defence which made her surroundings shy of her.
In some respects Peter was much gratified, then, at the invitation. Miss Van Hoosen was the bright particular star of the local celebrities of Woodsome; for though her residence was some miles beyond the village, she owned much property in it; and her influence was marked, and always favorable. For himself Peter had never boasted of their cousinship; but he could not help being a little uplifted at Adriana’s recognition. And if he thought of the gratification he would find in just naming the affair, in an incidental way, before Bogart and others, it was a bit of pride so natural and so unselfish as to merit a smiling toleration.
It was then decided that Adriana should go to New York on the following Monday; and Miss Alida went cheerfully away with the promise. “I hope to have Antony to meet you,” she said, as they parted, “for I shall write to him this very night.” And then turning to Peter she added, “I look forward with great delight to this new experience; for I have a large maternal instinct, and I intend to make myself believe that I have a son and daughter to settle in life.”
“I hope that your intention will bring you nothing but pleasure, and that it will end well.”
“I know not, Cousin Peter.” Her face became thoughtful, and she added, with some seriousness:
“The thing we intend is sure to bring with it lots of things we did not intend, and often of far superior importance; but – ”
“Our times are always in His hand. We do not shape our own destiny, cousin.”
“Oh, indeed! I should like to dispute that point with you; but the train is no respecter of persons, so we must let its settlement wait on our convenience.”
With these words she waved an adieu to Adriana, and Peter drove her away. Then Adriana sat down to try to realize the change that had so suddenly come over her circumstances. Her first thought was the glad one that she had voluntarily made her father happy before this invitation came. How mean she would have felt if she had not done so! He might then have been pleased to get rid of her sad face and melancholy ways; and she could not have written to him about her pleasures in New York. She would have been ashamed to do so. And on many other accounts, she understood at this hour that unselfishness pays no one so well as it pays those who practice it.
It was Friday afternoon, and the interval was full of pleasant talk and anticipations; though naturally on the Sabbath the tone of both was subdued to the day and its holy observances. In the bare old Dutch Reformed Church, Adriana was an object of interest to the maidens worshipping there; almost as much so as if she were going to be married. A strange destiny had fallen upon this girl, who had been their playmate and schoolmate, and they could not help wondering what quality she possessed capable of attracting to her so much good fortune. She was pretty, but then they also were pretty; some of them lived in larger and finer homes than Adriana’s; and as for her plain tweed gowns, they thought their own styles far superior.
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