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His Father’s Son — Chapter 5

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 15, 2011

His Father’s Son

By Ivy Williams Stone

Previous episode

Chapter 5

The new cloth, a strong, tough cotton, was called khaki. An officer named Roosevelt had introduced it for his “Rough Riders.” His men did not suffer intolerable heat with woolen uniforms, and the drab color made the soldiers inconspicuous. Esther spread the bolt of cloth out on her bed, measuring and calculating the number of masks that could be fashioned from it. Quilt making was laid aside; the deft needle of Esther made fine, smooth seams, and button-holed two small breathing holes in each mask. In addition, she rose extra early each morning to serve Oliver a special breakfast which he ate alone before the rest of the family came to eat. The mask had to be removed and even Esther, after her loving service, left the room, leaving Oliver alone with his affliction. He never deviated from this custom – always his meals were served to him alone.

“You ought to go out more, Esther, and get to care for someone else,” he admonished. “You ought to marry soon.”

“I’m waiting for you, Oliver,” Esther would answer simply, her eyes welling with unshed tears. Then Oliver would squeeze her hand tenderly or kiss the little ringlets on the nape of her neck, where she might not catch even a glimpse of his disfigurement.

“Someday there will come a doctor who knows how to do that operation,” he prophesied, “and I’ll work and save against that day. It will cost a lot, but it will be worth it. Then we can be married. I’m going to plant tomatoes this year. We’ve got the right kind of soil to make them grow. Burbank says so, and they are a fancy thing and bring a big price in the city stores.”

The carefree, unrestrained Kareen had entered the room in which the boy child was born. But a month later, when the doctor had permitted the nurse to leave, a woman emerged. A woman of determination, of will power, of one set purpose. Her husband had had the baby christened Richard Haven the III, in spite of her protests, but a name could not alter her intentions. The curling blonde hair, the deep blue eyes, the long tapering fingers, made him her child. She would train him; he would learn music, live music, breathe music! First it would be the piano, as far as Kareen could guide him, then it would be better teachers. Then the violin; then concerts, then study in Europe, then concert tours! Maybe, oh, beautiful dream, he might become a composer!

To this one end she reared, cared for and guided the child. The daily bath, even after he was long past baby days, seemed an effeminate gesture to Richard Haven; he argued a little dirt was good for a farmer’s son. For her own music, Kareen seemed to have ceased to care. Only that the boy could practice – that he might have leisure! When Richard announced that a boy of six could bring up the cows at night, if he had a small, gentle pony, Kareen rushed out to perform this task, and ever after took the cows to pasture and brought them home at night. When Richard announced that a boy of nine could ride the derrick horse for the haying, Kareen put on overalls, and straddled the horse before the eyes of the astonished hay hands. She was water boy to the threshers; she learned to cook; her cakes became palatable and her pies not too tough. For an hour every morning and an hour every evening she stood beside the piano while the boy, with tiny hands that could hardly reach over four keys, learned the rhythm she felt. One-two-three-four – one-two-three-four,” she chanted, while little Richard the third made answer falteringly. “That was the music your father marched to, when he went to war,” she boasted, “and three-four time is more beautiful – like dance music.”

And every night when she tucked him into bed she told a bedtime story of some famous musician.

“Once upon a time a boy learned to make violins. Not the short, thick violins like those then in use, but a longer, thinner model, with a beautiful arch in the middle. And he had a secret method of preparing the varnish. He used a strange new varnish, colored an orange red. His violins vibrated more than any others made up to that time. He became very famous, and put his name inside five hundred forty violins. He gave each one a special name, and the one named “Messie” later sold for a hundred thousand dollars! His name was Antonio Stradivari! Someday you will own one of his wonderful violins!”

“Mr. Burbank made a potato that was so good people call it the mortgage lifter,” answered the boy. “I’d rather have some of that potato seed!”

And again, nothing daunted, Kareen would tell another story. “Once there was a man who learned to play the piano better than anyone else in all this world! His name is Paderewski. He is still alive, and someday we will take you to hear him. He practices six hours every day.”

“Father is going to raise some fancy horses,” replied Richard Haven III. “He is going to send all the way to Kentucky to get them. They are racers or trotters, anyway, they go awful fast. He’s going to put them in the south pasture, which has tall meadow hay and lots of running water. I’m going to have a colt.”

“I’m going to breed thoroughbreds, father,” announced Richard the second. “There’s money in those beautiful fellows. Don’t see why Kentucky has to have the corner on them.”

“I don’t know that such a course would be wisdom, son,” counseled Father Haven. “This new horseless carriage that people made so much fun of at first seems to be getting somewhere. If it is a success, it means the passing of the horse.”

“Maybe so,” admitted Richard Haven, “but there will always be people to buy beautiful horses for the love of them. Besides, it won’t cost much to keep them in the south meadow. And I’ll build a special barn to keep them warm in winter!”

When the car of registered thoroughbreds arrived, all the men of the village came to see the beautiful, thin-legged animals. They were so different from the heavy draft horses that drew the plows! The glossy coats, the fine manes, the nervous tension of the lithe bodies was a never-ending source of joy to the villagers. The Havens were prospering indeed, when they could import such fine stock!

Kareen was not satisfied with the boy’s musical progress. Some country boarders came across the street, and Kareen soon learned that the lady was a music teacher. Richard scoffed at the idea of spending money to teach a boy to play the piano, and refused to pay for such effeminate service. “But his fingers,” pleaded Kareen, “do you not see that his fingers are not Haven fingers? That he will never be a farmer? That his hands are too delicate?”

“Richard Haven the III will be a farmer like his father and grandfather before him,” replied Richard in maddening clam.

However, the lady across the way gave the child lessons, and she was a faithful teacher. She taught the boy the technique which Kareen’s unskilled fingers did not master, and Kareen gave the Haven family the inference that out of the kindness of her heart, the visitor was teaching the child for nothing. But Esther was aware of a sudden falling off in the daily supply of eggs, and the fresh cream jar had stains on it every morning as though cream had been dipped out!

“Franz Schubert was a wonderful musician,” chanted Kareen as the boy laid in bed, “and had a terribly hard time in his youth. He died very young, and over thirty-five years after his death, people discovered the most wonderful music he had written! It is called the Unfinished Symphony in B Minor.”

“Father has a book that says Mr. Burbank made over forty thousand slips of prunes before he got one that suited him,” answered the boy. “It has no stone. He gave it a name, just like the violin maker gave to all his violins. It’s called ‘Abundance.’”

The next spring Richard sold one of the new-born thoroughbred colts for a fancy price. “That’s almost clear profit,” he cried gleefully. “I’m certainly going to raise lots of those beauties. I’ll give one to sonny, and teach him to ride. He’s played that piano about long enough. He’s almost a man now.”

“O, Richard,” cried Kareen, all agitation and eagerness, “now that you have that money, won’t you please, please, buy us a piano? One to have in our own home? I know that so much practicing worries Mother Haven, although she never complains.”

“I’m going to buy a cemetery lot,” replied Richard. “I am going to buy a nice marble tombstone; a triangle shaped one. With spaces for three names – yours, the boy’s, and mine.”

“Oh,” cried Kareen, in despair, “what good is a cemetery lot? What does it matter what becomes of us after we are dead? It is now – while he is young, while he can be taught, that the boy must have a piano. His fingers, Richard! Have you noticed his fingers? They are tapering and thin and delicate. He can reach an octave now, but he could never handle those nervous, high-strung horses. I am afraid of them.”

“I will not buy a piano,” reiterated Richard. Poor Kareen always had to learn over again, each time, that the Havens were men of their word. “I have already picked out the cemetery lot. I have planted three little evergreen trees on it already.”

That evening while Richard sauntered in prideful possession down to the pasture and the boy practiced in his grandmother’s parlor, Kareen slipped out to the barns. She had timed her visit when she knew the three members of the older family were at supper. It never varied, always at the same hour. The lady from the city taught Richard to play, and in return Kareen furnished fresh eggs and thick, sweet cream. Kareen never permitted the thought of deception or theft to deter her. All was fair, so long as the boy learned to play! Richard Haven would soon be bringing the stallion up to the special stall for the night. She had to hurry. She hastened from nest to nest, taking an egg here, one there; then seeing the moving figures of a man and horse in the pasture lane, Kareen hurried out of the older barn through the new barn, leaving the bars unfastened. “No matter,” she thought, “Richard will see them down and put them up.”

Later Esther went out to turn the incubator, as was her custom every night. The eggs must be carefully turned, a task which she trusted to no one. Coming out of the coop into the corral, she was frightened by, and herself frightened, the thoroughbred stallion, that had broken his halter and was running wildly about the corral, the trailing end of the halter enraging him as he ran. Esther sensed the danger and, insensible to the risk she incurred for herself, crept after him, trying vainly to snatch the rope end. With a wild snort the horse turned suddenly, knocking Esther against the unplaned paling of the corral. For a brief moment Esther was blinded and faint from the pain in her right eye; a sharp jagged sliver protruded from her eyelid! A sliver had penetrated her eyeball!

Her screams soon brought Richard; Oliver had been eating his late supper alone in the kitchen. Richard Haven jumped into the corral, and angered by the sight of the injured Esther, sprang after the horse with no thought of safety or wisdom. The now thoroughly angered animal ran wildly about, rearing and snorting; and in a panic as uncontrolled as that of the man who tried to catch him, the beautiful stallion brought his thin sharp hoofs down upon the head of the man who had so loved him.

Skilled doctors were summoned; good neighbors rendered aid, but by morning all knew that Esther had permanently lost the sight of one eye, and that Richard Haven would have need of the cemetery lot which he had provided for his family. In the silence which precedes dawn one sharp, echoing shot rang out; Oliver Haven had used the trophy Mauser gun in a gesture of uncontrollable revenge. The beautiful stallion and the man who had so loved him were only memories on the Haven Farms.

(To be continued)



28 Comments »

  1. Surprise, surprise, Richard and Kareen’s kid is super-weird!

    Comment by E. Wallace — June 15, 2011 @ 12:10 pm

  2. Gee, I didn’t think I was being prophetic when I commented the other day about Esther being “blind”, and now she is, at least in one eye.

    This is pure Gothic now. One eyed Esther, reclusive and disfigured Oliver, and guilt-ridden exotic salad-eating Kareen. This is truly bizarre beyond my expectations. I’m betting the author thinks the ending turns out fine, but I suspect we won’t like it.

    Comment by kevinf — June 15, 2011 @ 12:19 pm

  3. What the heck! A sliver protuding from her eyeball! As if the noseless Oliver wasn’t disturbing enough already. And I knew buying that cemetery plot was not a good omen. Was there ever a group of people more unsuited for each other?

    Comment by Grant — June 15, 2011 @ 12:23 pm

  4. I love these prompt comments. Why, it’s almost like you were waiting for this installment to post! ;)

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 15, 2011 @ 12:27 pm

  5. Waiting? Does drumming my fingers on my desk, ignoring work, and constantly refreshing my browser count as waiting?

    Comment by kevinf — June 15, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

  6. Is anyone else surprised by the lack of Church tie-ins? There was a temple marriage, and maybe we’re getting into some kind of pride cycle plot now, but it really is light on any kind of gospel theme.

    Comment by E. Wallace — June 15, 2011 @ 12:45 pm

  7. Hm. I thought the Mortgage lifter was a tomato, rather than a potato?

    Comment by Coffinberry — June 15, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

  8. LOL, Kevin!

    E., any mention of a Mormon setting seems pasted on, doesn’t it?

    And Coffinberry, I resent your implication that there could be the slightest factual imprecision in this story. Imagine!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 15, 2011 @ 1:24 pm

  9. Well, this one didn’t manage the same level of absurdity as the last installment, but it’s still plenty absurd.

    That evening while Richard sauntered in prideful possession down to the pasture…

    Was the author hoping we would like the characters, or hate them, or is it possible that this is satire?

    Comment by Researcher — June 15, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

  10. Best story ever. I have no other comment.

    Comment by Mina — June 15, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

  11. I just read all five of the installments so far (not having gotten to them before). Wow! Ardis, was there creepy organ music playing in the background when you found this one?

    Didn’t Richard II know that Richard III should be playing for opening exercises in priesthood?

    And why didn’t I think of the “effeminate” defense when I didn’t want to practice piano or bathe at age 10?

    Comment by Paul — June 15, 2011 @ 2:12 pm

  12. You were right, Ardis. Thus truly is a soap opera drama!

    Comment by Tiffany — June 15, 2011 @ 2:23 pm

  13. You know, I typed the first three or four installments, expecting at every moment that it would get better (I hadn’t read it before starting typing — Ivy Williams Stone has had some decent stories, so I thought I could trust her this time). Then I just kept going because I didn’t want to waste the effort I had already put into it. Once it was done I couldn’t imagine actually posting it — what a rotten story, I thought. Then when I went to my stock of prepared serials this time, I thought why the heck not?

    Your reaction to this is so much more fun than I ever could have hoped. But we all came this close >.< to not ever seeing it, believe me!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 15, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

  14. Re #8 – It reminds me of “Anne of Avonlea,” when Diana doctor’s up Anne’s love story with references to baking soda (?)… perhaps Sis. Stone originally meant this as a gothic novel.

    Comment by E. Wallace — June 15, 2011 @ 2:38 pm

  15. I did a google search on Ivy Williams Stone. There’s not a lot out there, but in the late 1920s to early 1930s, she published several short stories and a few poems in the Improvement Era. Haven’t found any of those actually on line yet, but it would be interesting in light of this story (which is not listed in the BYU Mormon Literature database) to have some of her other work for comparison.

    Comment by kevinf — June 15, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

  16. Ivy Williams Stone (she sometimes published using “W.” instead of “Williams,” which might affect your search) is the author of the two stories posted so far about the Mrs. Benson character (the one who took the salesman hostage), certainly as unrealistic as this serial and as absurd in its own way, but not bizarrely giggle-worthy like this one. She also wrote the serial that I’ll post next, one I do like quite a bit.

    I’ll see about finding those Improvement Era pieces, too, and give her a chance to redeem her reputation. :)

    [Edit: Whoops. She did not write our next serial; I misremembered. Well, a search of the draft queue shows her as the author of a couple of other single-issue short stories — I’ll be sure to draw attention to her name when those are posted so that we can think about them in relation to this serial.]

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 15, 2011 @ 4:50 pm

  17. More research! Ivy and her husband Spencer donated the land on Washington Boulevard in Ogden, Utah, for the “Emerson Stone Branch Library” that I used to go to as a kid. It appears that their family lived in the ward in Ogden that I later attended with my parents, but well before my time there.

    Comment by kevinf — June 15, 2011 @ 4:54 pm

  18. Oh, even more fun! I ran across this question:

    In the old Spanish hymnbook, “Himnos de Sion,” there was a children’s song called “Lavemonos Los Dientes,” with music by N. Lorenzo Mitchell, words by Ivy W. Stone, and translated by Eduardo Balderas. It’s #17. What are the original English lyrics?

    Now here are the translated lyrics:

    I will not brush my teeth,
    A little child cried out
    I already washed, I already combed,
    that’s good enough for me.
    But you could hear
    a cry of joy in his mouth
    As the fearless germs
    came out to eat.

    They joyfully said:
    We have a good home
    And between your unbrushed teeth
    we can celebrate
    The child heard their plan
    and quickly he brushed,
    He killed the germs,
    not even one escaped.

    I love the line, “The fearless germs came out to eat!”

    Comment by kevinf — June 15, 2011 @ 4:58 pm

  19. One more tidbit about the song by Ivy Stone. The English name was Tooth Bugs, and it appeared in an old version of the Children’s Songbook. Here’s a link to a bit more about that song.

    Comment by kevinf — June 15, 2011 @ 5:08 pm

  20. Wonderful, kevinf! Suddenly she’s a real person — and most of this shows a streak of eccentricity, doesn’t it?

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 15, 2011 @ 5:12 pm

  21. This story is so rad. I kept hoping for some real legit drama, and two disfigured people and one dead person this has definitely exceeded anything I thought possible. Also, what crazy stuff could be coming next??

    Comment by LAT — June 15, 2011 @ 5:20 pm

  22. The quick passage of time in this installment surprised me.

    Also, she seems to sell the “farm boys will be farm boys”, doesn’t she? Tell them of musicians and they just want to talk crops and such.

    There is a teeny bit of church element here–Oliver “prophesied” about his future surgery. =)

    Comment by Téa — June 15, 2011 @ 5:53 pm

  23. So, do we think that “His Father’s Son” means that Richard III will grow up to breed race horses in spite of Mama and she will finally see that music is worthless?

    Or maybe this was written as a family home evening activity at college where one person writes a few sentences, then passes it to the left and another person writes a few . . .

    Comment by Carol — June 15, 2011 @ 6:48 pm

  24. I kind of like your second idea, Carol — except that it would mean that there had to be a roomful of contributors with a similar taste for the, uh, grossly unconventional.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 15, 2011 @ 6:53 pm

  25. Okay, Franz Schubert Haven, we’ve got your father out of the way. Now let’s get back to that piano!

    Comment by Ellen — June 15, 2011 @ 10:12 pm

  26. I can say one thing. If Esther dies, I’ll be sadly disappointed. Not so much about the rest of ‘em.

    Comment by SilverRain — June 16, 2011 @ 7:06 am

  27. I haven’t decided if the Havens are supposed to be protaganists. I mean, does the author intend that I should like or admire the “prominent,” “reliable” –and very dysfunctional–Havens?

    Comment by Clark — June 16, 2011 @ 11:15 am

  28. Thanks to Paul for dropping the Haven and calling these guys Richard II and Richard III. How appropriate! “A horse, a horse. My kingdom for a horse!”

    And it’s nice of Ivy to suggest that practicing music is leisure, and unmanly. As to the first, she obviously never studied the violin.

    But, she can’t conjugate “lie” so anything else she writes should be ignored.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 16, 2011 @ 11:33 am

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