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His Father’s Son — Chapter 6

By: Ardis E. Parshall - June 17, 2011

His Father’s Son

By Ivy Williams Stone

Previous episode

Chapter 6

The news of the death of Richard Haven the II quickly spread over the entire county. The fame of the Haven Farms had been far reaching; and the tragic death of the elder son, coupled with the uncertain accident to the foster daughter, added to the sympathy which the entire community had already felt for the family since Oliver’s accident. Father Haven, white faced and with drooping shoulders, moved as if in a trance. Mother Haven, seemingly endowed with a superhuman calm, took charge of all the funeral details. Oliver sat beside Esther’s bed, in the darkened room, holding her hand and whispering words of endearment and comfort.

“Taint right I should be talking of marriage while my brother lies dead,” he muttered, “but as soon as you’re well enough we’re going to be married. I always felt you ought to have your chance to marry a man who didn’t have a blemish on his face. I figured you’d get sickened of looking at a man without a nose, but now —”

“I know what you mean, Oliver,” Esther’s faint voice came haltingly. “I know what I’ll look like when I get up. My eyeball will shrink and shrink and shrink, and pull my face out of shape. I guess I’ll be needing some khaki bandages, too,” she finished with a weak smile.

“Well, we’ll be married and keep on living right here to home, and nobody needs to look at us who don’t want to. We can grow fancy fruits and flowers, and we can carry on the family name for Dad. He’ll be needing comfort. Richard would want us to do so.”

The money which Mother Haven gave Kareen to buy suitable mourning was promptly spent in a music store, and she returned home laden with expensive music. “I shall sing at the funeral,” she announced calmly. “Richard would want me to. I sang when he went to war; I sang when he came home; I shall sing this one last time. The most beautiful poem in the world has been set to music; I shall sing Henley’s ‘Invictus.’ It means unconquered.”

With her blond curls refusing restraint, with a faraway expression in her eyes, the tearless widow stood beside the coffin of her husband and sang as she had never sung before. At the piano the youthful boy played as though he were inspired; while his blond curls and those of the singing woman seemed to beckon to each, “we are one.” Most of the simple, country-bred audience could not grasp the portent of the song, but deep emotion moved them to tears as Kareen sang. They felt the inexplicable difference between her and the other women of the valley; she stood with a queenly air, as though exercising an inalienable right. As the last lines poured forth, every spectator was openly weeping; and the men who had watched her ride the derrick horse felt a secret chagrin that they had permitted her to humble herself before them.

It matters not how straight the gate
How charged with punishment the scroll –
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.

All who listened knew she would carry on. That her one set purpose of life would not be defeated, and farmers glanced stealthily from the long-fingered, delicately shaped hands of the Haven boy to their own browned, calloused hands. Truly, this boy had come also from another life!

A week later old lawyer Sleed came to see Father Haven. “I have Richard’s will in the safe,” he announced, “and I guess you ought to come along when it’s read to her and the boy. There’s the trunk, too, which the strange woman turned over to Richard when he married Kareen. Richard didn’t mention it in his will, but he told me, should anything ever happen to him, I was to give the key to you ‘till the boy is twenty-one.” Lawyer Sleed handed Father Haven the odd-shaped key which guarded the secret of Kareen’s parentage.

Father Haven, Kareen and the tall boy sat in the dingy, country law office while lawyer Sleed cleared his throat and slit the legal envelope with his penknife. While flies buzzed in the dingy window, the old lawyer read in a drawling monotone:

In the event of my death, I charge my father and my brother Oliver to carry on. All the property which I own shall stay undivided until my son Richard Haven III is twenty-one. My wife Kareen is at liberty to live where she chooses, to train the boy as she desires, until the day he reaches his twenty-first birthday. My father and my brother Oliver are to provide Kareen with one hundred dollars each month for her support and the education of the boy. All additional earnings from the farm shall be spent for improvements or banked to his credit. When he is of age, my son shall return to this office and in the presence of lawyer Sleed, my father and his mother, shall receive certain other instructions which I have prepared for him, and which are to remain sealed and unread until that time. I want my boy should study everything Burbank raises.

Richard Haven II.

When the drawling voice ceased, only the buzzing flies broke the silence of the room. Kareen’s eyes were afire with anticipation and joy. Free – free at last! Free, to take the boy where she willed; to train him as she wished; to guide his life, to mold his habits; to plan his future! A hundred dollars a month! Why, it seemed a fortune. Now, the long coveted desire, to purchase a Stradivari violin, seemed attainable. She could save, and scheme and plan. Surely, one of the five hundred forty-four indisputable originals would soon be theirs!

“Here’s a package your father left for you, son,” the old lawyer passed over a package tied with binding twine. “Said you might like to look ‘em over.”

The boy Richard pulled at the restraining string until his fingers whitened. Then lawyer Sleed cut it and expectant hands tore off the wrapping paper, revealing several booklets and government pamphlets on the life and achievements of Luther Burbank. Glancing at a cut of the great horticulturist, the boy cried, “Look, Mother, look! His fingers are long and thin, too! I know I could do that sort of work, too! Just because my fingers are long is no sign I could not work in soil. Look,” he cried, flipping through the booklets, “here’s a story of the spineless cactus, and the stoneless prune, and the Shasta daisy, and the white blackberry, and the thornless blackberry, and the Crimson Rhubarb and – and – and,” he stopped for breath while his grandfather laid a gentle hand on his arm, and Kareen turned deadly white. The boy had never shown animation over the achievements of Beethoven; the pathos of Schubert’s life had never moved him; Schumann-Heink’s victory in grand opera had never stirred him to praise. But now a few paltry sheets on the achievements of a gardener in California had turned him, almost before her eyes, from a docile boy to a determined young man!

“We want you to stay here, daughter Kareen,” Father Haven spoke haltingly, moved by emotions which he struggled to control. “Richard gave you permission to go where you choose, but we want you should stay with us. We will see the boy has good schooling before he takes over the farm.”

“He won’t take over the farm!” Kareen had become suddenly masterful, almost imperative. “I shall take him away to Salt Lake City. There are good teachers there; he will study piano and pipe organ, and technique. I will buy him a violin with the first hundred dollars you pay me. He will do nothing except study music! I will massage his hands; he will soak them in hot water every night, as Paderewski does, to keep them supple and flexible. He will study abroad; he will learn foreign languages; he will study the German composers in their own tongue. I am sorry Richard is dead. But what is, cannot be helped. The child is mine; MINE ALONE!”

Father Haven stood nonplused before this new, this strange Kareen. Never before had she seemed anything but a child to him. Now this changed woman stood before him, defiant; impelling; determined.

“I will give you the piano, daughter, if you will stay with us,” begged the grandfather. “Surely you will not take Sonny from us. He must come back when he is twenty-one.”

“Only to sell the farm!” cried Kareen with fresh passion, lest her plans be frustrated. “I will take him away from all growing things; from hay and horses, from chickens and eggs, from cows and butter. I will train him to play. Music shall rule his life.”

“Ah, daughter,” answered the older man, laying a gentle hand upon the shoulder of the quivering woman. “Do not make too great haste. The boy will be himself, in spite of all you may do for him. He is his father’s son!”

“Don’t you worry, Grandpa,” boasted young Richard Haven, breaking the silence that followed his mother’s outburst. “I’ll be back. Someday I shall invent a watermelon without seeds, and pine nuts that are large enough to make a mouthful, and peaches without fuzz, and climbing strawberries, and wheat without chaff, and corn without a cob!” The boy waved his arms in a wide comprehensive gesture, as though the world were his for the taking.

“I beg you to stay with us, daughter,” reiterated Father Haven. “Surely our cup of sorrow has been full enough already. Do not take our grandson from us.”

“I will only go to Salt Lake City, Father,” temporized Kareen, touched by the pathos of the older man. “But as you love the farm, so does this boy love music. He must live his own life.”

Two weeks later Esther and Oliver were married. The “White Rose” bedspread took the place of wedding gown, and the square white washed bedroom had to be the church, and the bandaged eye could wear no wedding veil. But a solemn simplicity marked the impressive nuptials as the bishop read the service, and a new desire to live and to carry on filled Esther’s soul as Oliver turned his masked face toward her and pressed her hand.

“We’ll live in Kareen’s house,” he announced. “She’s determined to go away, but the boy will come back. She can’t seem to understand that Richard the III is bound to be a farmer; all Havens are born to the soil. But she has to learn. So you and I will keep the house for him, against his return. We’ll save and work, and someday, as there is a God in heaven, we will find a plastic surgeon who can make new noses, and put in glass eyes that look like real ones. Our farm will make us the money and we will both be as good as new.”

Kareen packed in a frenzied hurry. Oliver and Esther were welcome to the house, and all that it contained, except her music and clothes. She was glad to leave; glad to get away from the sleek, glossy haired horses; the butter and chickens, haystacks and barns; glad to be free to train her son. With reckless abandon she threw their clothes into the new suitcase of real leather which Mother Haven gave her. The music encyclopaedias and her sheet music were the only belongings she packed with care. Oliver drove them to the station. Just as the train began to pull slowly out young Richard Haven uttered a piercing cry, “Mother,” he screamed, “Mother, you have come away without the books on Burbank which father left for me!”

(To be continued)



20 Comments »

  1. This new installment is now making me think of the Phantom of the Opera, even though the characters are all mixed up. Oliver and Esther wear the masks to cover their deformities, but Kareen is surely now playing the part of the Phantom, hauling her son off to some blighted musical dungeon in that pit of depravity that is, sigh, Salt Lake City!

    In spite of the fun I am having making fun of this, I’ve now had enough time to get invested in the characters, none of whom seem to know what they really want, and are all consumed with what they want for others in the extended family. Only young Richard the III and his grandmother seem to be acting normally. I’m now anxiously awaiting future episodes.

    Note to Ivy W. Stone: If you wanted to learn how to write colloquial dialogue that sounds believable, you should have lived another twenty or so years, and read Charles Portis’ True Grit. Young Mattie could have taught you a thing or two.

    Comment by kevinf — June 17, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

  2. It’s probably off topic, but this line:

    I will massage his hands; he will soak them in hot water every night, as Paderewski does, to keep them supple and flexible.

    struck me in a personal way because just this week, my own musically gifted son with beautiful long nimble fingers who set aside his beloved viola to serve on a mission, wrote:

    “winter is coming on soon, and that means… you guessed it, rain! When it rains here, it rains normally for a while, and periodically it pours, which gets you soaked all-the-way-through. Due to my frustrating experience of trying to keep my hands dry insidethe coat pockets and having the coat pockets flood and freeze, I decided it might be best to invest and use those water gloves you sent me.”

    Comment by Coffinberry — June 17, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

  3. Kareen owns a sad sort of denial… desperately ignoring her son’s obvious fascination with growing bigger and better crops.

    I don’t understand why Esther the bride couldn’t wear a veil, it’s not as if one needs two eyes to wear one. Could it be a reference to not being married in the temple?

    Comment by Téa — June 17, 2011 @ 12:28 pm

  4. Luther Burbank (1849-1926) is one of the most notable horticulturists ever, and was evidently as famous in his time as Thomas Edison. He developed the potato which is used in French fries, the Freestone peach, the Shasta daisy, and hundreds of other varieties of plants.

    I will have to admit that I recently checked out a book on Luther Burbank from the library but didn’t finish it. The book was called The Garden of Invention: Luther Burbank and the Business of Breeding Plants (2009) and was actually quite interesting. The blurb on Amazon says that the book discusses:

    significant moments in Burbank’s life (itself a fascinating story) and uses them to explore larger trends that he embodied and, in some cases, shaped. The Garden of Invention revisits the early years of bioengineering, when plant inventors were popular heroes and the public clamored for new varieties that would extend seasons, increase yields, look beautiful, or simply be wonderfully different from anything seen before.

    It looks like Richard III wants to be a scientist, not a musician. But why not both?

    Comment by Researcher — June 17, 2011 @ 12:34 pm

  5. Ooh… thanks for the reading tip, Researcher. It’s even checked in at the library… Heading over there in a bit!

    Comment by Coffinberry — June 17, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

  6. “this new, this strange Kareen”

    the strange part isn’t that new.

    Comment by Grant — June 17, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

  7. Well, it’s just as well I don’t have to wade through subtlety in this story. Who wants subtlety, anyway?

    I must confess the whole wedding in the bedroom confused me. It’s almost as if this were one of those books you can insert your child’s name into, but instead, they’ve inserted the geographical region and church.

    And why is Kareen satified with Salt Lake City for her son’s musical tutelage?

    Comment by Paul — June 17, 2011 @ 1:28 pm

  8. “I’ll be back. Someday I shall invent a watermelon without seeds, and pine nuts that are large enough to make a mouthful, and peaches without fuzz, and climbing strawberries, and wheat without chaff, and corn without a cob!”

    It is strange to hear of watermelons without seeds spoken of in the same breath with corn without a cob. I suppose both were equally unimaginable at one time.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — June 17, 2011 @ 1:38 pm

  9. Why is Kareen satisfied with Salt Lake City?

    Salt Lake City and the Mormon culture have a strong tradition of musical excellence. There were a number of musicians and music teachers, especially pianists, in the city who had trained under notable teachers in Europe in the period before the First World War. (When does this story about the Havens take place?)

    I have never seen the same number of music teachers and large and successful music stores anywhere else I’ve lived outside the Mormon corridor as those I was familiar with in Utah and Arizona.

    Comment by Researcher — June 17, 2011 @ 1:55 pm

  10. Richard II and Kareen were married shortly after his return from Cuba in the Spanish-American War. That makes Richard III born about 1900; so this episode is about 1911, give or take?

    Comment by Coffinberry — June 17, 2011 @ 2:01 pm

  11. Let me also add my two bits to how fascinating the life and work of Luther Burbank are. However, as per his eugenics in “The Training of the Human Plant,” I doubt he would approve of any of the couplings in this story. If you’re interested the entire text of that essay can be found here.

    Comment by Mina — June 17, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  12. oops, either don’t know how to post links here or forgot they were maybe not allowed? Anywho you can find the Burbank essay at archive.org.

    [I edited your link to make it work, Mina. Thanks for the link.–AEP]

    Comment by Mina — June 17, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  13. About the marriage in the bedroom:

    Some of you may recall the story of Eulah Marie Jewett, the young woman who had been kidnapped from Salt Lake City as a baby. She joined the church in the 1950s, and her report said she was especially anxious to find her real family because she couldn’t receive her endowment without knowing her parents’ names. I didn’t know then — still don’t — whether that was really church policy then, or whether she misunderstood what she was told. As odd as it seems, it’s possible that that was policy — for many years, single women or women married to non-members couldn’t receive their endowments because they couldn’t be sealed to husbands; perhaps the same rule was in effect if you couldn’t be sealed to your parents.

    I started today trying to find out whether that really was policy after all, after reading this installment of this wonderfully dreadful story written in the ’30s.

    Eulah Marie didn’t know her parents because she had been kidnapped. Esther (although fictional) doesn’t know her parents because she was a foundling. If that really was church policy, Esther couldn’t have been married in the temple, explaining why she was married at home. If that’s the case Ivy Stone wouldn’t have needed to explain that — most of her readers at the time would have known that and taken it for granted.

    I don’t know how soon I’ll have the answer. I’ll let you know either way — will probably write a separate post about it, if it proves to be true. In that case, this silly serial will have resulted in our learning something new. If false, I’ll be able to add a note to Eulah Marie’s story correcting her report.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 17, 2011 @ 2:58 pm

  14. What? He didn’t want to invent a tomato with the flavor of cardboard and the texture of a turnip? Where’s his sense of adventure?

    And that lawyer Sleed? Where’d he get that name–from Dickens? And what a draftsman! “I want my boy should . . . ” That alone should be grounds for disbarring him.

    And, for all the thriving music stores in Utah (I won’t dispute Researcher’s assertion–a great music store around the corner from Carnegie Hall just closed, for crying out loud!), I’m afraid that the general attitude is the same as the Haven family–it ain’t quite proper. Real boys play football.

    Comment by Mark B. — June 17, 2011 @ 3:18 pm

  15. #13: are we to understand that Esther wasn’t sealed to the Havens? Most of the Mormon families I’m familiar with seal their adopted children to them.

    And #1 and #3 hit the nail on the head. Among the tragedies of this story is that everyone is forcing their vision of a “successful life” onto those around them.

    Comment by Clark — June 17, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

  16. Clark, since the family all expected Esther to marry Oliver, I doubt they considered her their *daughter* else she would have been marrying her own brother.

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — June 17, 2011 @ 4:42 pm

  17. So, is Kareen going to do something totally ridiculous/life threatening/deadly to get a Strataverious violin, only to find out that there is one in the trunk? That’s my call.

    Comment by Tiffany — June 18, 2011 @ 7:09 am

  18. I gotta hand it to Ivy — for all the goofiness and variable deficits unearthed by our collective scrutiny, I’m hooked. I have to know what happens to everybody, and what’s in that trunk.

    Comment by Mommie Dearest — June 19, 2011 @ 1:14 am

  19. Probably seeds for cobless corn.

    But they never opened the trunk, so now we’ll never have it.

    Comment by SilverRain — June 20, 2011 @ 1:13 pm

  20. . . .Then Richard III will sell the Stradivarius to pay for the two plastic surgeries and save the farm from foreclosure.

    Comment by Carol — June 20, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

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