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His Father’s Son — Chapter 4

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 13, 2011

His Father’s Son

By Ivy Williams Stone

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Chapter 4

It was not long before Mrs. Haven knew that her daughter-in-law was a musical genius and a kitchen failure. She accepted this fact with true philosophy and set herself the task of acting as buffer to shield the sensitive Kareen from the criticisms of the family. To Richard Haven, it was an ever present chagrin that his wife either could not, or would not, cook. The girl whom he had thought was young enough to be molded to his ways of life could not be adjusted to regulation and system. If she was hungry in the night, she rose and ate the first thing she could find; if she did not care to eat at noon, Esther thoughtfully put her dinner in the warming oven. Even Richard’s threat to lock the piano soon lost its poignancy. Here his mother became Kareen’s ally.

“You expect too much, son,” admonished his mother. “You cannot make people over. I fancy that Kareen’s people, for generations back, have had servants in their families. You must remember that Esther had twenty-odd years of good training. Esther is a born home maker. Kareen is a born musician. Let her alone.”

Thus admonished by the mother whom he revered, Richard became less exacting, and Kareen spent longer hours in the parlor, picking out the music from her beloved set of encyclopaedias. As the fall days made the parlor chilly, Mrs. Haven laid a fire every night in the franklin stove, that Kareen might practice in the morning. And Richard chopped this extra wood without demur; Kareen’s condition demanded that she be cared for assiduously.

Esther, mindful of the future, felt that if Kareen would not cook, she must learn to sew. When they moved into their own home there would be need for bedding, and the housekeeping standards of the period demanded that every well furnished house have a goodly supply of quilts.

“Come, Kareen,” urged Esther, “you will need quilts. You really have none of your own. I can’t give you that white coverlet, because I am saving it for my own wedding, but I will teach you how to make one like it; and many others, too,” she added, getting enthusiastic over the prospect of a winter of joyous piecing, “if you care to learn. The ‘Double Wedding ring’ would be beautiful.”

“Do you mean that twisted circle one you have on your own bed?” queried Kareen. “I counted the pieces in it one day. There are twenty-nine rings and twenty-seven pieces in each ring. That makes seven hundred eighty-three pieces to be sewed together, to say nothing of the ‘set in.’ I’d rather practice.”

“Then we’ll try something easier,” temporized Esther. “You see, you must learn to sew, Kareen. If you should ever have a —” Esther stopped, suddenly abashed.

“I’m going to have a baby in the summer,” announced Kareen evenly, while Esther blushed at this too frank admission of a subject she had been taught should never be discussed. “I’ve named him ‘Franz Schubert Haven.’”

“You’ve named him what?” gasped Esther. “O, Kareen, that’s wicked to name a baby before it is born. Suppose it should be a girl?”

“It won’t be,” stated Kareen with assurance. ‘It will be a boy with big blue eyes like mine, and long tapering fingers. He will be a musician. He will become a famous violinist. That’s why I’m naming him after Franz Schubert, who composed the most wonderful music I ever heard. But he died young.”

Esther sighed with resignation. It was hopeless, trying to adjust this frank, innocent child to Haven discipline. What would Father Haven say to this foreign name being fastened to an American-born child of the Haven clan? Why, there had been a Richard Haven in each family for seven generations, and always the first-born son was so honored. It would be sacrilege – nothing else!

“We could build your house of rock, like ours, son,” Father Haven was discussing Richard’s home which was to be started with the coming of spring. “But rock masons are hard people to find these days. Perhaps we had better make it brick.”

“Brick would be better,” was Richard’s terse decision. “We will have five rooms with a large pantry leading off from the kitchen that we can later remodel into a bathroom. I’ve seen pictures of rooms with a long zinc tub to bathe in, and a wash basin that you don’t have to pick up. You just pull a plug out of the bottom and the water runs out of the house into a cesspool. Down in Salt Lake City some of the richer people and the opera house have got lamps that don’t burn with kerosene. There’s a little globe that hangs from the ceiling on a wire and you just turn a switch and the globe floods the whole room with light. It’s electricity.”

“I want a room for my piano that’s all windows,” unbidden Kareen announced her wishes. “A piano should have an inside wall and lots of light to fall over the left shoulder. The encyclopaedia said so. And I don’t want the ceiling so high as these, and I want the walls covered with pretty pictures.”

“Kareen,” admonished Esther, shocked that one so young should dare tell Father Haven how to build a house. “Come with me, I have the cloth to make your quilt. We will go to my room and cut out the pieces.”

In Esther’s room, a counterpart of the bare, plastered room which Kareen disliked, Esther spread out six yards of beautiful “dye-fast” percale. “Did you ever see anything so beautiful,” she cried with enthusiasm. “See, when we cut the pieces and lay them together, so,” she deftly matched the squares over each other, “it will be beautiful. And Richard will be proud of you; and you will enjoy having it on your bed, Kareen, when – when, well, if you should ever be in bed for some sickness or other.”

“You mean when the baby comes?” asked Kareen in innocence. “I declare, Esther, you blush every time I mention the baby. Franz Schubert Haven won’t be caring whether he’s covered with a quilt made of seven hundred or seven thousand pieces. But I’ll make the quilt, to please you. I want to do it all myself. Even the cutting out.”

Esther smiled with joy. Visions of a dozen beautifully pieced or patched quilts, crowned with a white padded quilt flashed through her mind. If they worked industriously, both of them, they might have the quilts finished by the time the house was completed, provided, of course, that Oliver was not released sooner than he had reason to hope. If Oliver could come home, nothing under heaven, not even the new baby, or the precious quilts, could divert Esther’s attention from him. She would live to wait upon him, to make him happy, to get him reestablished in the place in the home which he had left.

For the entire next day Kareen stayed mostly in her room, even refraining from practicing. Mother Haven feared she might be ill but she answered Esther’s solicitous knock with a bright note that she was busy on the quilt. Esther, overjoyed, went back to her kitchen and prepared an extra nice supper. Kareen was adjustable. She would learn in time. And her beautiful face and softly curling hair was ever a source of surprise and joy to the more somber Esther, whose smooth locks had never shown any tendency to even wave.

At supper time Kareen came tripping down the stairs. Her eyes were shining, her voice happy. “See,” she cried, holding up her handiwork that Richard, Father Haven, and even the hired man might see and admire. “See, it is all finished! I do not intend to spend weary months quilting as Esther does. The top of my quilt is completed!” All the assembled family looked; and Esther kept looking in amazement. It was too cruel to be true. Those six yards of beautiful flowered percale, for which Esther had traded hard gotten egg money, had been sewed together, three pieces to each side, into one large block! A quilt of six blocks, each one a yard square. Who had ever heard of such a foolish, childish trick!

“O, Kareen,” cried Esther, “how could you! I paid so much for that cloth, and you’ve gone and spoiled it all!”

“I don’t see how it matters,” complained Kareen petulantly. “When we get the wool inside, it will be just as warm as any quilt Esther owns. The baby won’t know the difference.” At this last remark, a terrible, deadly silence fell over the room. A woman had dared to speak of approaching motherhood before men other than her husband. Mother Haven dropped a bowl, which fell clattering into her plate. Richard choked over food and Father Haven said kindly but firmly, “Kareen, you are ill. You may be excused from the room.”

In June the baby came, a long travail fraught with great hazard. The women of the village had approached childbirth with vigor and courage; this child of play, to whom pain was unknown, was ignorant of life. She lay for days, scarcely breathing, noticing no one, until finally Richard telegraphed to Salt Lake City for a doctor. When he came, accompanied by a woman in starched white clothes. Esther and Mrs. Haven stepped thankfully aside and down in the parlor where the beloved encyclopaedias were lying in confusion all over the big square piano, they prayed silently. Prayed that the lives of the two in the room upstairs might be saved. “I don’t care what she names the baby, if she only lives,” whispered Esther. “O, Mother Haven, it can’t be. there has to be a Haven son, and Oliver said he wouldn’t marry any woman on earth so long as he has that terrible scar where his nose ought to be.”

“There, there, Esther child,” soothed Mrs. Haven. “this good doctor will save the lives of both those children if the Lord is willing.” And while the two women prayed in the parlor, the doctor and the nurse worked as they had seldom worked before. And while they worked, Richard Haven stood mutely by, forgetting the chores and the milking and his prized purebreds. Forgetting all, save that the beautiful child-wife was near death, and that all hope of an heir might die with her.

After what seemed interminable hours, the doctor’s face relaxed and the nurse’s labors were rewarded with a faint wail. “It is a boy child,” announced the doctor, “and they both will live. But she can never have another.”

“Kareen, Kareen, beautiful. child, do you hear?” whispered Richard, bending over the bed. “We have a son! Richard Haven the third has arrived to live with us!”

“Franz Schubert Haven,” breathed Kareen, and lapsed into blessed restful sleep.

Richard’s joy knew no bounds. Although it was near midnight he dashed down into the dimly lighted parlor where the family were waiting. “He is here,” he cried. “Mother – Esther, I have a son! Richard Haven the third is here; alive and well! Kareen said something Franz somebody, I wonder what she meant?”

Esther did not answer. Full well she knew the months during which Kareen had spoken of this boy child’s name; full well she knew the Haven assumption that no first-born child could carry any other name than Richard. She felt too weary for argument. If the boy could have been hers, if she could have been married to Oliver, how gladly she would have gone into the valley to bear a son to carry that honored name!

She walked out of the house to the front porch, feeling the need of quiet and solitude. The full June moon was almost like daylight. The trees and shrubbery were sharply silhouetted. The air was heavy with the odor of lilacs and honeysuckle. As Esther stood resting against a porch pillar, the front gate clicked, and a man came slowly up the walk. He walked wearily, with drooping head, as one who has lost all interest in life. He carried a valise. For one brief moment Esther stood transfixed; then she cried out and forgetting all training of modesty ran down the walk.

“Oliver,” she cried, “Oh, Oliver! O, why didn’t you let us know you were coming!”

“I didn’t want the folks to see me,” answered Oliver in a hopeless tone. “I came on purpose in the night. I brought you lots of cloth, Esther, but it isn’t to make quilts with. It’s to make these shields that I have to wear.” Esther glanced up at his face. The moonlight revealed the outlines of an oval shaped shield, of a strange new color, half green, half brown, that concealed the middle portion of Oliver’s face.

(To be continued)



19 Comments »

  1. Sorry for the delay in posting. I trust this episode was weird enough to make the wait worthwhile.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 13, 2011 @ 1:05 pm

  2. Indeed it was.

    Comment by Téa — June 13, 2011 @ 1:30 pm

  3. Good grief. Everyone in this story is so insufferable!

    At some point there MUST have been a social happy medium between not being able to talk about babies at all, and sharing details about your conception plans. I wonder when that was.

    Comment by E. Wallace — June 13, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  4. I hope the authoress, dear Mrs. Stone, would not be mortified at my reaction, which was to dissolve in laughter as the episode ended. Oh my goodness! Any one of the details in the story might be true to life or interesting or shocking or distressing, but all together in one place?? The story’s like buckshot! But only three episodes per week? I can’t wait to read what horrifying plot development comes next! : )

    Comment by Researcher — June 13, 2011 @ 1:47 pm

  5. Laughter? At that tender and dramatic moment? Oh, how COULD you?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 13, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  6. More, more!

    The bizarre etiquette in this tale is too much:
    1) Anything conversation hinting at pregnancy is taboo
    2) It’s wrong for a woman to run to her serious boyfriend after a long separation
    3) Seven generations of “Richard Havens” must be perpetuated at all costs.
    4) Wives are expected to be “molded” into whatever personality their husband might wish
    5) A wife cannot speak unless invited to, especially about something like the house she’s going to live the rest of her life in.

    And those are just the feminist complaints from a single episode. The “temple marriage” and “visit with Duenna” chapters are chock full of equally bizarre customs

    Comment by Clark — June 13, 2011 @ 2:33 pm

  7. Oh, the tangled web we weave. Were people really so uncomfortable talking about fertility?

    I like how the “rigid” Havens have been, uh, flexible and how the “free-flowing” Kareen has been surprisingly static.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — June 13, 2011 @ 2:34 pm

  8. And, does anyone else want to hazard a guess on the moral of this tale? I think it will be this 1995 conference quote from Elder Nelson:

    ”The probabilities of a successful marriage are known to be much greater if both the husband and wife are united in their religion, language, culture, and ethnic background. Thus, in choosing an eternal companion, wisdom is needed. It’s better not to fly in the face of constant head winds. Occasional squalls provide challenge enough.”

    Comment by Clark — June 13, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

  9. How could she? The same way I did. Like this:

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

    Comment by Ellen — June 13, 2011 @ 2:49 pm

  10. Glad to hear I’m not the only one to react like that, Ellen! : )

    Comment by Researcher — June 13, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

  11. I was hoping for something more like a tin nose. Or maybe a quilted one.

    Comment by Grant — June 13, 2011 @ 3:31 pm

  12. You’ll all be delighted to know that Wednesday’s installment is already programmed to post at noon MDT so there’ll be no delay. Will there be wife molding? tin noses? aliens from Jupiter? Tune in and see.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 13, 2011 @ 3:34 pm

  13. Just caught up with this. Whoever cited Cold Comfort Farm was dead on.

    This is a pure delight, Ardis. The overwrought writing alone, never mine the bizarre plot!

    (I must confess it: I married with only one “dowry” quilt. And I didn’t make it, my great grandmother did. Also, I peel uncooked beets.)

    Comment by Mina — June 13, 2011 @ 5:31 pm

  14. Also, I peel uncooked beets.

    But — but — but this is stranger than anything in the story, Mina! Your beets would be so much sweeter, have so much more flavor,if you didn’t lose all the juice by boiling them naked! And the cooked skins slide off so easily!

    Oh, oh, oh … this is shocking … must reread the story for a restoration to sanity …

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 13, 2011 @ 6:00 pm

  15. Now see, I figured that the precious white quilt would be cut to pieces while Kareen cut out her fabric on top of it. Then the new fabric would just be cut tiny and wonky and be unusable. Cut as it is, in one yard squares, it is quite useable. But Kareen’s right, the baby won’t care!

    Comment by Tiffany — June 13, 2011 @ 7:16 pm

  16. Well, see, I never boil beets. I roast them with leeks, sweet potatoes, garlic and turnips.

    I hope that helps restore my reputation a bit…

    Comment by Mina — June 13, 2011 @ 8:16 pm

  17. Whew. Not only does that restore your reputation, it makes me hungry again. And I can go to sleep tonight without worrying about your eternal soul.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 13, 2011 @ 8:23 pm

  18. This is looking more and more like Plan 9 from Outerspace all the time.

    Some random thoughts.

    1. I never eat beets, boiled, roasted, naked or otherwise.
    2. I also thought of Lee Marvin’s tin nose for Oliver
    3. For a blind person, a block quilt versus one made up of 700 hundred odd pieces, would be just as warm, and Esther is surely blind.
    4. Pride in purebred cattle = pride in purebred Havens
    5. Heaven forbid that this rural backwater valley somewhere in Utah should adopt those wicked city habits such as brick houses, electric lights, and (gasp!) cesspools!

    As my grandfather (an Idaho farmer) said, “I haven’t had this much fun since the pigs ate my little brother!” I can’t wait for Episode IV.

    Comment by kevinf — June 14, 2011 @ 11:07 am

  19. Oops, sorry, Episode V!

    Comment by kevinf — June 14, 2011 @ 11:08 am

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