His Father’s Son
By Ivy Williams Stone
Richard Haven crawled out from under the truck, where he had been assisting in changing a tire, and surveyed his handiwork with satisfaction. “Getting those bolts off was sure some job,” he admitted, “but it was fun, too. My, but she’s a beauty!” He stepped back and looked over the shiny new truck with the joy of possession. He ran his hand lovingly over the gold sign “Haven Farms, Incorporated.” “That means me, too,” he half whispered. “My, I’m glad you got it, Uncle Oliver. Soon I’ll be driving it for you. I can bring the load to market every day. Your having to come at night, like you do, makes it sort of hard. I will be there; I will get up early and reach the markets long before the horse teams.” The boy glanced sympathetically at his Uncle Oliver, who still wore the protecting shield over his face, and who still avoided meeting people.
“You’ll have to wear different clothes than what you got on now, Richard, if you expect to get very far with a truck. I’d say that suit is sort of dirty. Was you expecting to go some place when you saw me?”
Richard glanced down at his disheveled finery. The precious dress suit, which Kareen had purchased at much personal sacrifice, was dusty and grease-smeared. Memory of where he was supposed to be flashed over Richard’s consciousness with sweeping remorse. “O,” he cried in genuine dismay, “I was supposed to be playing my violin before a lot of people. Mother called it my ‘debut.’ There were to be a lot of women with nothing to do, who wanted to hear me play. I don’t want to play, Uncle Oliver. I want to plow. I want to help raise food for the soldiers. Our boys are going to Europe to fight. I’m too young to fight, but not too young to be a good farmer! I’m going back with you, now!”
“You’d best go home, son,” Oliver laid an understanding hand on the shoulder of the boy who was now his equal in height. “Your father had things figured out pretty well. Stay with your Mother, ‘till you are twenty-one. Then come home and read the rest of the instructions he left for you. I think his way was best.”
With reluctant, weary feet Richard Haven returned to the Bohemian apartment. The fresh earth odor which clung to the truck filled his soul with the longing for the farm. The young spring vegetables had smelled so good, so fresh; the call of spring surged in his veins. The world needed action, not music of dead masters. He wanted to be a producer, to perform his part in the struggle which now seemed about to tear the whole earth asunder. Potatoes and wheat, sugar and meats were soaring to a fabulous price; and here, he, Richard Haven, son of a farmer, heir to wide lands, was spending his days in a tiny apartment, drawing a bow over four strings!
With such resentful emotions stirring his heart, he opened the door of his apartment. He would tell his mother! He would fling the violin out of the window; or better, still, she could take lessons. She was still a young woman, and with the urge she felt, she could make good.
“It’s no use scolding me,” he blurted out as he entered the room, hoping to forestall accusations and reproaches. “I didn’t intend to run away! I just walked to the market, and who should be there but Uncle Oliver, in a beautiful new truck! You ought to see it, Mother! It’s got the left handed steering wheel, and a self starter and a closed-in cab and one-piece windshield! It can make twenty-five miles an hour easy. The gas tank holds 17 gallons. Uncle Oliver taught me how to mend a puncture. I’m going to drive it for him every morning, and I’ll reach the market first!” He stopped for breath, and his eyes fell upon his forgotten violin, reposing upon the lap of the frail, delicate man from the apartment below.
“I forgot the concert,” explained Richard Haven simply. “When I saw the beautiful truck with “Haven Farms, Inc.,’ painted on both sides, well, I just forgot everything else!”
Kareen was starry eyed; all trace of her recent tears was banished with new aspirations.
“O, Richard,” she cried, “I will forgive you this time! Your absence brought this gentleman into our lives. He is recently from Europe and has played with Paderewski and studied with Fritz Kreisler. He used to be a violin teacher himself before – before – ”
“Before I had the misfortune to antagonize my wife’s father,” supplemented the man who had filled Richard’s place at the concert. His long, tapering fingers strummed the strings of the violin lovingly. “Once I owned a Stradivari violin. It was a beautiful jewel. Its deep red gold varnish was unsurpassed. I would give my life, the little that is left of it, to possess it again!”
“Mr. Smith – Mr. Peter Smith will play for us,” smiled Kareen. “He saved the evening for you, Richard. After hearing him play, I knew you were not ready to appear in public. He has agreed to teach you, Richard! His touch is exquisite! He will teach you far better than any teacher you have ever had. Under his tutelage, you will learn to breathe, feel and live your work. Listen!”
Standing before the baby grand piano, while Kareen played his accompaniment, Peter Smith played the mediocre violin until it seemed animated. His very soul seemed to flow into expressing his joy in freedom. Praise for his release from bondage filled the tiny room, until even the resentful Richard was mollified and he knew also, that he stood in the presence of a master.
“You play as though you once had a great sorrow,” whispered Kareen.
“Madam,” a latent fire of grief and hate leaped into the eyes of the seemingly mild, fragile man. “Madam, for eight years I never saw the light of day. For eight years I never ate until I had filled a huge bucket with coal. But I never ceased to pray; somehow, I always knew that God would free me! Always I rubbed my hands and exercised my fingers. This great and terrible war, Madam, was my salvation. Out of every ill there comes a benefit to someone. I was one of the political prisoners who were freed by the Russian Revolution! But even my freedom had its alloy. All was changed. I could not find my wife. I could not find my child. I could not find my violin! all I ever learned was that my infuriated father-in-law had banished my child to America in care of a nurse, had cloistered my wife in a nunnery for life. Of my beautiful violin, which came to me from my father, and to him from his father, I could find no trace!” The prematurely old man bowed his head in grief and tears of which he was unashamed rolled down the cheeks of the sympathetic Richard.
“We will pay you!” cried Kareen. “We cannot, of course, pay you what your services will be worth, but we are able –”
“Madam, money to me is no object. In my country, servants were loyal unto death, and fortunately a faithful soul provided me with funds to reach America. If Richard is teachable, I will teach him; and search for my lost Stradivari. It had a special name: ‘The Parke,’ dated 1711.”
Out on the Haven Farm Oliver still wore the khaki colored shields which Esther made for him so carefully. Every advancement in plastic surgery was carefully followed by all the family. Oliver knew the danger of paraffin poisoning and that the services of any but the best surgeons would be too hazardous. But the World War brought great strides in this branch of surgery, and now Oliver and Esther were agreed that an operation could be performed successfully. Esther would make the journey to Minnesota too, for the right eye had shrunk pitifully, until she also wore it bandaged.
“It may take a long time, father,” Oliver had studied enough to know all the self sacrifice which this delicate operation would demand. “We might be gone over a year. It will make it pretty hard on you.”
“I will lease the land until your return.” Richard Haven I still stood erect and supple, still looked the world squarely in the face.
“Richard would like to come back,” suggested Oliver. “He isn’t so happy there in the city, studying the violin.”
“The boy is scarcely old enough to know his own mind,” replied Father Haven. “Let him continue as his father suggested. he is barely eighteen, and is filled with the unrest which this war has created among all young people. Let him study three years more, as his mother wishes, and as his father planned. Then he may return. I will lease the farm to Japanese tenants until your return. From now on until he is of age, Richard’s grandfather may mold his future.”
“What do you mean, father?” Mother Haven almost lost the calm which the changing years had brought her. “You are saying he is to study music, and now you say you are to mold his future.”
Father Haven indulged in a little smug smile, enjoying the surprise which he knew his revelation would produce. “Sometimes it happens that a child has two grandfathers,” he announced slowly. “Such was the case here. Although we never knew him, and she never knew him, Kareen had a father – and a wonderful father. After thirty odd years of banishment and terrible suffering, he has at last found his child. Kareen’s father lives in the same apartment as they, and is about to undertake the training of the boy. The revolution in Russia released thousands of political prisoners, and he was one of the fortunate ones. The duenna, an ever faithful servant, furnished him with money and the address of the man whom the girl had married. I, myself, directed him to the apartment. He looks like a man returned from the grave, far removed from the light of day. The coal mines of Siberia are not the pleasantest place in the world for a violinist to live.”
“No wonder Kareen loved music,” soothed Mother Haven. “No wonder she could not learn to keep house properly. She was born a musician, and is teaching her boy the life she was denied.”
“He is his father’s son,” admonished Father Haven with emphasis. “Kareen may hope to mold the boy’s life, but his grandfather will understand, and in due and proper time, our son’s son will return to his people and his land.”
“Amen,” breathed his listeners, as though a benediction had been pronounced.
While his Uncle Oliver underwent a delicate and prolonged operation; while his Aunt Esther secured a perfectly matched glass eye and the muscles of her face lost their tension; while the Japanese farmers cultivated the fertile acres he was to inherit, Richard Haven learned to play a violin with his soul. His white haired tutor recited actual tales of privation and suffering; told of the beauty of the young wife whom he had lost; described the perfection of the lost Stradivari instrument he had loved as though it were a child. The young man listened and played and improvised. Just before he reached maturity, when Kareen was planning the European tour, when she was gloating in the soaring prices being paid for farm lands, she picked up one of his practice books which had fallen from the rack to the floor. From it fluttered a small leaflet, worn, dog-eared and pencil marked. It was entitled: “The Romance of Burbank’s Crimson Winter rhubarb.” (Lovingly nicknamed “The Mortgage Lifter.)”