His Father’s Son
By Ivy Williams Stone
The news of the impending marriage of Richard Haven to the will-o’-the-wisp was a nine-day wonder in the village. Staid old grandmothers shook their heads prophetically. Mothers grudgingly commented that he could have chosen wiser.
“If you and Kareen could be satisfied with us for the first year,” Father Haven was almost wistful as he made the offer, “Mother and I would be glad to have you stay with us, ‘till you get your house built, leastways. It’s lonely without Oliver, and Esther could teach Kareen some of the things wives need to know.”
In the early morning of a beautiful day in September the little bridal party left for the Temple in Salt Lake City. It was a long day’s drive, even with the fast “trotters” and the surrey. Duenna had a new black dress; Kareen’s wild curls had been brought into restraint and a dress of blue worsted with leg-o’-mutton sleeves made her look suddenly older and mature. Before leaving, Richard drove down to the now deserted house at the end of the lane and carried the portentous trunk over to old lawyer Sleed’s office.
“I want you should keep this trunk here in your office ‘till I tell you what else to do with it, lawyer,” admonished Richard Haven. “Someday soon I’ll be having you make me a will to put with it.”
Duenna waited for Richard and Kareen on a bench in the Temple grounds. When they returned to her, hand in hand as man and wife, a wave of responsibility seemed to slip from her, as a weary traveler might discard a heavy mantle.
“I have discharged my trust; I have fulfilled my promise; may the blessings of God follow you both,” she muttered. “I am no longer needed. I return to my people.”
“No,” cried Kareen in genuine distress and sudden panic. “No, Duenna, I cannot spare you. Who will comb my hair at night? Who will bring my breakfast to bed? Who will polish my shoes? Duenna, I cannot live without you. You cannot go!” she commanded, stamping a little foot imperatively. “I command that you stay!”
But Duenna, strangely independent, smiled sadly and answered, “For seventeen years I have cared for you, Miss Kareen. I have never left you. Even when my own mother died, in the far away land, I did not go. I have been faithful to my trust; but now I am weary. I give you into the keeping of your husband.” She took Kareen into her arms, kissed her reverently on both cheeks and turning, hurried from the Temple grounds. She gave them no address; said nothing of where she was going. Almost by sheer strength, Richard held the weeping girl in his arms, to keep her from running wildly after the retreating form of the only guardian she had ever known.
“Darling,” whispered Richard Haven, “I will care for you now. I love you. Duenna did right. Perhaps she has loved ones whom she wishes to join.”
“Who will care for me?” wailed Kareen, more beautiful for the tears that welled into her eyes.
“I will take you to the opera tonight; I have tickets. Come, your husband will take you to the first real music you have ever heard; there will be none to try to stop you. Perhaps I can buy you some copies of the songs.”
Two days later Richard and his bride returned to the Haven Farms from their little honeymoon. Esther had cooked a wonderful meal for their reception; even the parlor was opened and the hanging lamp lighted for this August occasion. Esther took Kareen up to one of the large, square white plastered bedrooms which had been prepared for the new daughter. Upon the bed Esther had spread her choicest possession – a white padded quilt. She had spent months of eye-straining labor to produce the embossed effect in the rose petals. Small whiffs of cotton had been laboriously stuffed in with a darning needle, until the padded rose petals had stood out in full beauty. To Kareen, however, this gracious gesture was of no importance. “Look, Esther,” she cried in exultation, “I must show you what I bought! Richard gave me twenty-five dollars,” she spoke of that sum of money as negligently as though it were a common occurrence. “He told me to buy some plain clothes, such as I could use when I helped you wash and brought the cows in from the pasture. I got these instead.” With childish pride she set the dusty telescope upon the bed and spread out ten large books, bound in calfskin. ‘Breed’s Complete Musical Encyclopaedia,’ was printed in bright gold letters on each volume. Kareen opened each volume reverently. “See,” she cried excitedly, “here is the history of the life of all great composers. Here it tells you about Beethoven’s compositions after he turned deaf; it tells you all about the struggle Schubert had to make a living; it tells about Jenny Lind; it tells how ‘The Marseillaise’ was written in an attic. It’s full of good music. it’s got Handel’s Largo and the ‘Sextette from Lucia’ and Humoresque and Home Sweet Home! Oh, Esther,” she finished breathlessly, “How I love them! How I shall study them! Perhaps I shall waken you of mornings, practicing on the piano. I shall keep you awake at night, I – I – I – ”
“I guess,” responded the quiet, demure Esther, “you won’t have much need for plain clothes.” She saw the dark, soiled stain which the valise had made upon her beautiful counterpane, and her thoughts traveled to a far away hospital. Perhaps Oliver was lying there, with only the regulation hospital blankets for his coverlets. Then she thought again of the twelve lovely quilts in moth balls in the attic. “God’s will be done,” she muttered piously, but her voice was faint.
“Kareen,” admonished Richard two weeks later, “I’ve sort of let you play around for a while, getting used to the new life. But the threshers are coming soon, and they must be fed. You must help Esther with the meals. They will be here four days, at least. If they have machine trouble, it will be even longer.”
“O, bother,” pouted Kareen. “Men are always hungry. Duenna and I ate when we pleased and what we pleased. But the meals in this house are so regular. Ever since I’ve been here it’s been breakfast at seven; dinner at twelve, and supper at six. I don’t like the system. I like music.”
“O, beloved child,” replied Richard, “men must eat. Men must work. You must help Esther, or,” here his voice became severe, as a parent might chasten a naughty child, “or I will lock up the piano.”
“Oh, oh, oh,” cried Kareen in terrified alarm. “O, Richard, I will help. I will peel potatoes, I will wash dishes, I will do anything! Better that you kill me, than to close the piano!”
So Kareen hastened to the kitchen eager to serve to accomplish her one objective. “Esther,” she cried zealously, “I want to help cook for the threshers. I must do my part.” She seemed so eagerly anxious to serve that Esther was touched. She raised her shoulders, bent over a large mixing bowl.
“Well,” she answered, “I shall welcome some help. You may put the beets on to boil for dinner. They are in a pan on the back porch.”
Esther bent again to her task of mixing the heavy, stiff batter of the cake which was to slake the hunger of tired, weary men. She heard Kareen puttering about on the porch; saw her take a kettle and knife out to the pump as was their custom to wash vegetables. But Esther looked in dismay when a half hour later Kareen came in with a kettleful of peeled beets, from which the red juice was already oozing.
“O, Kareen,” she cried in dismay, “you have peeled the beets before they were cooked! And it’s too late now to dig others before dinner!”
“Well,” parried Kareen, glancing ruefully from her stained hands and a bleeding finger to Esther’s reproving face, “you peel potatoes, and you scrape carrots and you peel turnips. Why don’t you peel beets?”
“Don’t be too severe, Esther,” cautioned Mother Haven from the bench where she had been stripping corn. “Remember, she never did a bit of work in her life. Suppose you go for the mail, Kareen; maybe there will be a letter from Oliver.”
Kareen departed joyously. It was more fun to run along the lane to the store-post office than to work in a kitchen. Perhaps she could catch a butterfly; perhaps a fruit peddler would give her a lift. The sky was blue and the sun was bright. Life was sweet, indeed!
Esther worked rapidly during her absence, planning many tempting dishes for the threshers, who always stayed as long as possible at the Haven home, because their “board was so good.” Pies and puddings, cookies and roasts piled up before her; and occasionally she stopped to stir the heavy cake which would represent a goodly portion of the dessert.
When Kareen returned she waved a letter with a New York postmark. “One for Esther and one for Mother and Father,” she cried gaily, and Esther dropped her spoon with the hasty admonition, “stir those spices into the cake, Kareen,” and sought seclusion to read her letter.
“I want you should not wait for me,” – Esther paled as she read those terrible words – “I ain’t worth waiting for any more. I don’t know how soon I’ll be cured – maybe never. It takes an awful long time. There are doctors here who would like to experiment on me to see what they can learn, but I won’t let them. I don’t want to go from bad to worse. I’m coming home as soon as my wound is healed and then some day, when the doctors know more about it, I’ll have an operation to make me a new nose. It’s called ‘plastic surgery,’ and they would take a piece of my tibia, cut it the shape of the nose bone and start it to growing. But I want you should marry someone else, for I won’t marry any girl with a face like this.
Esther walked out to the chicken run to regain her composure. Oliver, to tell her to marry another! Why, she loved him! suppose he was disfigured, he would need her more now than ever. She would wait forever!
When Esther returned to the house, strains of music were coming from the parlor. Mother Haven was bending over the huge cake bowl, a worried expression on her placid face. She was trying to pick something out of the cake mixture.
“I sent Kareen in to play,” she explained. “She took the spices from the pantry shelf instead of those you had measured out on the table. And, well, I guess there’s a bit too much red pepper in this dough to be real flavoring. I wonder if it would hurt the pigs? I guess we shouldn’t worry over little things too much, Esther, so long as there’s the sorrow of Oliver’s face.”
The night before the threshers were to arrive for breakfast, Kareen insisted upon washing the dishes alone. “I’ll clean everything up so good,” she promised. “I’ll empty out every little ‘saving’ that might be on a dish, so you can have clean dishes for morning.”
At ten o’clock Esther went out to mix the bread. Hot biscuits for breakfast would start the men off in good humor. The yeast crock was empty! True to her word, Kareen had cleaned out every dish! The start of yeast which Mother Haven had had ever since her own marriage was gone! It meant soda biscuits for breakfast; it meant the disgrace of borrowing “a fresh start.” But somehow she didn’t care. She picked up the kerosene lamp and went to the parlor. There she opened the creaky, leather-bound dictionary.
“Tibia,” she read laboriously with moving lips, “tibia, the large bone leading from knee to ankle, sometimes called ‘shin bone.’” How could a doctor make a new nose from the leg?