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His Father’s Son — Chapter 1 (of 9)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 06, 2011

(I don’t know how to describe this one — freakish soap opera, perhaps? — read at your own risk. Maybe you can help me appreciate something in it I’ve missed, or maybe we’ll laugh or scratch our puzzled heads together. I can’t guess which.)

From the Relief Society Magazine, 1934-35 –

His Father’s Son

By Ivy Williams Stone

Chapter 1

Everything about the Haven farms represented permanency and stability. Between the rock fences, built by the first pioneering forebear, to the taut, barbed wire ones erected by the present owner and his two sons, there stretched wide acres of fertile, well tilled land. The weathercock on the painted barn seemed to proclaim to the world that Richard Haven was carrying on for posterity. The rock house was thick walled, substantial. Richard Haven and his father before him, and the sons he was rearing, were lovers of the soil, and strove for perfection in its fertility. The cellar was well provisioned; the panic of ‘93 had made little apparent effect upon their prosperity. It had become a village commonplace for one neighbor to say to another, “That is almost as well done as if Richard Haven had done it.”

On an afternoon in April in ‘98 Richard Haven stopped his work earlier than usual and turned homeward. Already the fall wheat was beautifully green with promise; the potatoes were all planted, the new lambs were in a sheltered pasture, and the whole farm seemed blossoming. But the pastoral peace of his possessions did not strike an answering chord in the soul of Richard Haven. True, Richard, the firstborn, and Oliver, the second son, had finished proving up on their adjoining homesteads, which meant many additional acres of good land. They were dependable, dutiful sons, but clouds of war were hovering over the nation. Surely the President could not tolerate the depredations of the Spaniards upon the long-suffering Cubans much longer. In the name of humanity, the American nation would have to rise to the defense of the weak; Utah would respond; the Haven boys would respond; and Father Haven would be the first to urge their enlistment. Still, the outcome of any war service is problematical and Richard Haven, alone on his front porch, struggled within his own soul over the conflict of loyalty and paternal love.

As he sat thus, Oliver came driving the fine herd of registered dairy cows up from the pasture. Esther, the foster daughter whom they had reared from infancy, went out to open the gate for him. What a wonderful girl she was! Even now her jellies rivaled mother’s; her bread was the talk of the village. In a pinch she could milk or harness the horses to the surrey. And Richard Haven had no doubt that when the county fairs got organized Esther’s quilts would take all prizes. Truly she had been as a daughter in the family. If war came and both sons could be spared to return, and one of them would marry Esther, life would indeed be kind to the Havens!

Presently Richard came in from the field, driving the plow team. Heavy purebred Clydesdales that they were, they recognized their master in this sturdy, erect young Haven scion. Richard’s dark hair lay in wet curls on his forehead, his olive skin glowed with the pleasure of a day full of honest toil. When the milking and the separating were over, he would eat a bountiful supper with his parents, his brother Oliver and the foster sister Esther; then he would retire to a long night of well earned, restful slumber, undisturbed by the clouds of monarchial abuse which were devastating the little island in the Atlantic. If he dreamed at all, it would be of the fair haired, youthfully beautiful Kareen who lived with her guardian in the last house in the village. Funny people, Richard thought as he fed and bedded the horses and turned toward the house; so different from the other villagers. Too much money to begin with and not enough to do. Duenna, as they all called her, ought to make Kareen learn to work, as Esther did, instead of running unrestrained over the village, trying to play on other people’s organs and pianos. If they had so much money why didn’t they get her a musical instrument of her own? But she was beautiful, and young, and could be taught!

At the supper table Mrs. Haven produced the day’s mail, as was the usual custom. Headlines of the paper blazed that War was declared! The President had called for volunteers! Richard Haven glanced from his wife to Richard; from Richard to Oliver. Mental telepathy flashed from the four Havens to each other. Words were unnecessary. Only Esther, the foundling, turned pale with fright and dropped her fork clattering onto her plate.

“I’m glad the crops are all in.” Oliver spoke in calm, even tones, befitting the dignity of his family.”

“We’ll be back for harvest,” added Richard, “and the ditches and levees are ready for irrigating. “I believe you can run the farm alone ‘till we’re back, Father. It won’t take very long to whip those Spaniards.”

“I will take your places!” cried Esther, glad for the chance to find relief in words. “I know how to turn the water over the fields, and I can milk. It’ll take all my time, and I guess I’ll just put my quilts away till you’re back.” She gulped and fought for self control. As Kareen found joy in singing and improvising melodies on borrowed organs, so Esther lived for the joy of watching quilts take form under her skillful needle.

“There, there, Esther child,” soothed Mrs. Haven, “we’ll manage somehow. How did you get along at Kareen’s house this afternoon?” Mrs. Haven’s face showed no sign of wartime emotion.

“I went down to Kareen’s house to trade quilt pieces,” replied Esther. “Leastwise, I thought I might be able to. I need some bright red to finish my ‘Wild Rose quilt,’ and I thought perhaps they might have some they would trade for the extra blue I have. I hadn’t ever been in their house before, and I guess I won’t be going again soon. Mrs. Duenna said – ”

“The word ‘duenna’ means ‘guardian for a young girl,’” explained Mr. Haven. “It is not her true name. But she is honest and law abiding with us and is a true convert to the faith. There is none in the village who pays a prompter tithing. We must respect her secrecy.”

“Well,” added Esther, “Mrs. Duenna said that people of Kareen’s rank did not stoop to quilt making. That it was a peasant occupation. She kept me standing. When I started to sit down she said, ‘wait until Kareen tells you you may sit,’ so I started home,” added Esther with a touch of self sympathy, “bringing my blue quilt blocks with me. When I got down by that big clump of wild roses which border the land, Kareen jumped out at me, a roll of red silk in her hand. It was the most beautiful red I had ever seen. All new, whole cloth! Kareen said, ‘Esther, I’ll give you all of this, if you’ll let me come to your folks’ house every day and play that wonderful piano in your parlor! And you mustn’t tell her,’ pointing her hand back toward their house. ‘She won’t let me play or sing; and if I can’t do both I’d just as soon die right now.’”

“Poor child,” muttered Mrs. Haven, “she is welcome to come and practice, for the piano merely stands idle. Kareen has a wonderful voice. I heard her singing out in the pasture the other day.”

“You must not deceive,” Richard Haven spoke sternly. “If Kareen practices on our piano, it will be with the consent and knowledge of her guardian. You return the silk cloth to her in the morning.” On the trivial matter of two yards of silk cloth, Richard Haven had spoken more fully than over the declaration of war.

“I’ll bring you some quilt cloth from Cuba, Esther,” whispered Oliver, and Richard Haven junior spoke with a vehemence that disturbed his mother.

“And I’ll bring Kareen something to play on! I can’t bring a piano or an organ, but I’ll get her a mouth organ, or a jews harp, or a violin, or even maybe one of those native made, funny looking things they call ‘sweet potatoes’! I don’t know who her parents are, or why that lady brought her here, but I do know the girl isn’t to blame. If it’s a sin for her to make music, it’s a shame to keep her doing nothing!”

“She wants to come to choir practice, but she can’t,” added Esther.

“If it’s a sin for her to make music,” repeated Richard Junior, “they ought to teach her to do worthwhile things, like cooking and sewing and preserving. Idle hands won’t do her no good.”

The next day the “trotting mare” was harnessed to the surrey and the entire family drove to town where the sons enlisted as volunteers for “the duration of the war.” The little county seat was crowded with excited men. They drew together in little groups, their faces grave and anxious. The Monroe Doctrine had been violated. The downtrodden little island of Cuba was not unlike the thirteen original colonies that had fought for independence from mother England. There were broken wisps of talk about a man from New York named Roosevelt who was determined to get into the fray. he was gathering sturdy, hardened men from all over the union to join his company.

“Seems to me,” Richard Haven’s quiet voice always had a respectful audience, “that our government’s woolen uniforms will be plenty warm for our boys in that island. It’s warmer there than here.”

Mother Haven shopped to conceal her real feelings. It was no use wasting an opportunity when once you got to town. A hardware store displayed new brushes for cleaning the stubborn disks of the separator. At the sight of them Esther’s eyes brightened. Mrs. Haven also purchased new brooder pans for the incubator. “We’d best be hatching lots of eggs, Esther child,” she added. “There’ll be good markets for all farm produce this year.”

Their errands over, the Haven family turned homeward. Even if the sons were subject to war call, cows must be milked and horses fed. As the surrey stopped in the backyard, the sound of music floated to their ears. Unmistakably the music was coming from the Haven piano!

“Whoa,” cried Richard in stentorian tones. Immediately the music stopped. From the low porch window there literally tumbled the disheveled form of a young girl, clad in finer clothes than Esther had ever owned, her head crowned with a wealth of flowing curls. Without stopping to explain her presence she ran swiftly toward the side gate, and on to the main road.

That night Oliver lingered on the back porch and turned the separator for Esther. “Esther,” he said diffidently, “I ain’t much for love making or fancy speeches. But before I go to this war, I want you to know I’ll be hoping to marry you when I get back.”

“I’ll be hoping to marry you, too, Oliver,” whispered Esther in return. “I’ll do the best I can to care for the farm. I got thirteen quilts now, so if I don’t get to make more while you’re gone, they’ll start us out.”

“I brought you some red stuff,” added Oliver. “Don’t know whether it is as good as that Kareen offered you, but it’s red.”

Two weeks later the news of Dewey’s victory at Manilla swept over the nation, and immediately the volunteers were called for service. There was a farewell party in the school house with patriotic speeches and songs, laughter and tears. Oliver kissed Esther at the station, while the eyes of Richard Haven roamed expectantly over the little audience of kindly neighbors and friends. As the train pulled in, his vigilance was rewarded. Down the road came a wild whirl of color, crowned by yellow curls; and the impetuous Kareen dashed into the little group, breathless and star-eyes.

“Duenna wouldn’t let me come to the farewell, ‘cause there was music,” she cried, “but I ran away!”

Without more explanation she sprang upon a pile of wool sacks on the platform and sang in clear ringing notes:

Dewy was the morning,
Dewy was the day,
Dewey was the admiral
Upon that day in May!

(To be continued)



16 Comments »

  1. How weird! This has all the makings of a great gothic novel.

    Comment by E. Wallace — June 6, 2011 @ 1:02 pm

  2. Stay tuned. It gets weirder.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 6, 2011 @ 1:09 pm

  3. Well. You certainly have my attention.

    I’m racking my brain for what I know of the Spanish-American War, which, I’m realizing, is really nothing. Most of what I know is from popular literature or TV… Heinlein liked to talk about it; Grandpa Walton was said to have fought in it; Night at the Museum features T.R. ready to charge the Hill. So gee, I guess I know nothing. (Getting ready to Google over to Wikipedia and see if I can learn something more!)

    Comment by Coffinberry — June 6, 2011 @ 1:51 pm

  4. Er…Cold Comfort Farm?

    Comment by Alison — June 6, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

  5. With a Mormon twist.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 6, 2011 @ 3:21 pm

  6. Wierd is the word!

    Comment by Bruce Crow — June 6, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

  7. Did they ever call small towns in Utah villages?

    Comment by Carol — June 6, 2011 @ 3:38 pm

  8. Ah, gee. How good to know that the U.S. was wandering off into imperialist adventures over 110 years ago! And the arguments sound nearly the same–let’s go save someone (the Vietnamese, the Kuwaitis, the Iraqis, etc., etc.) from some evil outsider!

    The only thing we’re lacking is a William Randolph Hearst to whip up the citizenry. Or is that what Rush Limbaugh is for?

    On the non-political side of things, I liked this line:

    In a pinch she could milk or harness the horses to the surrey

    Get me rewrite! “milk . . . the horses”?? “milk [them] to the surrey”?? Oh, dear!

    Comment by Mark B. — June 6, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

  9. No, Mark, that is what Glenn Beck is for.

    (Ducks and runs….)

    Comment by Coffinberry — June 6, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

  10. Do you think the extreme aversion to music’s something cultural, or from a former religion?

    Comment by Téa — June 6, 2011 @ 4:56 pm

  11. Aha! Téa, you have zeroed in on a very important plot point. I can’t say more — but bonus points to you!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 6, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

  12. That touches on the line at Wikipedia (yes, yes, I know, it’s not the best source, but it was the quickest) that struck me about the lead-in to the war:

    “In the minds, schoolbooks, and scholarship of the mostly Protestant U.S. public, the Catholic Spanish Empire was a backward, immoral union built on the backs of enslaved natives and funded with stolen gold.”

    The Spanish title “Duenna”, and the carefully-spelled-out name Kareen, and the mysterious hint of royal connections makes me wonder how Catholicism and the diminishing Spanish Empire will figure in to the story. What an interesting time to have the story appear in publication, shortly before the Spanish Civil War.

    Comment by Coffinberry — June 6, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

  13. Why do I suspect yellow fever may have a part to play in this as well? I’m also wondering about the significance of both girls being wards of their respective guardians.

    Alison, good call on Cold Comfort Farm as a comparison. I was thinking Jamaica Inn myself.

    Comment by kevinf — June 7, 2011 @ 4:08 pm

  14. Clearly Kareen has some disreputable musician in her shrouded history. This will be fun. Weird, but fun.

    Comment by Ellen — June 7, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

  15. Is this back when we were still winking at polygamists in Mexico? Because naturally Oliver should head down their with both of the wards/ladies. He could have Esther to sew and harness and milk cows for him, and Kareen to speak Spanish and play him beautiful music. Sorry to spoil the ending :)

    Comment by LAT — June 7, 2011 @ 8:20 pm

  16. Yup, there’s no point in continuing the series now that LAT has given away the ending! (Beep! Thanks for playing!) :)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 7, 2011 @ 8:36 pm

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