His Father’s Son
By Ivy Williams Stone
Upon a beautiful morning in June, Kareen wakened her son unusually early and smiled happily into his half comprehending eyes.
“Richard,” she cried gaily, “Richard, wake up! This is your birthday! You are twenty-one today! We are going out to the farm, and to Father Haven’s; and then to the lawyer’s office; and there you will receive the second installment of your father’s will. And while we are there, we might as well make a day of legal transaction, and prepare the deed to the Japanese farmers, and get the money and come back and start to pack. We are going to Europe!”
“Uncle Oliver and Aunt Esther have a pair of twin girls,” announced Richard nonchalantly, now fully awake. “I saw Uncle in the market yesterday. He’s got a stall of his own now, and more people came to his place last Saturday than to all the others put together. He sells dressed chickens, and asparagus and spinach, Burbank’s white blackberries, and everbearing strawberries. He’ll have the first cucumbers and watermelons. I’d like to run the stand. It has a sign reading “Haven Farms, Incorporated.”
“We’re going to Europe, Richard!” Kareen’s lap was full of steamship literature and travelogues. “I’ve been writing to a collector, and there is a genuine Stradivari to be sold at auction in London this summer. If we sail from New York on July 1st we can get there in time. Think of it, son, you are about to possess one of the five hundred forty originals!”
“Uncle Oliver has found that the meadow land is ideal for growing celery.” Richard looked more than his twenty-one years. He had the characteristic erect head and squared shoulders of the Havens, although his hair was golden instead of black. “And Mr. Peter says it would not be wise to go to Europe now. It’s all war torn. And I guess I won’t let those Japs buy my farm for what they please!”
By ten o’clock the little party of three were on their momentous journey back to the Haven farm, which Kareen had not visited since her hasty departure ten years before. By common consent Mr. Peter Smith was included with the party. He had become an inseparable part of the life of Richard and Kareen. It was he who smoothed out the troubles when Richard became too farm minded; he who suggested patience when Kareen became too eager for the proposed life in Europe.
“Ah, Madam,” he had reminded her, “you see Europe only through the pages of an enthusiastic student of music. You read only of the conservatories and the masters. All this was written before the terrible war. You have not seen the sorrow and the suffering and the hunger – as I saw it. Music is wonderful; it is my life – but Richard is right. People must be fed.”
With Richard’s mind full of plans and dreams for the enlargement and betterment of his farm, with Kareen’s mind focused upon an ocean voyage and the auction of the famous violin, with the gentle Peter Smith acting as mediator between these two divergent minds, the little party journeyed back to the Haven Farms. Mother Haven served a bounteous meal. Richard ate vociferously, talked incessantly, squeezed his grandmother until her placid face flushed with pleasure, and as a crowning joy measured himself and his grandfather against the door jam, to find that they were now the same height. “At last,” he cried gaily, “I have achieved my ambition. I used to think there could be nothing grander in all the world than to be as tall as my father and grandfather!” After dinner Richard played for his grandparents, while Kareen accompanied him on the old square piano, in the parlor with the “closed up” odor. To Kareen the youth played of castles and soldiers, maidens and lovers. But to Peter Smith, who knew the boy’s every mood, he played only of running water, lowing cattle, blooming fields and autumn harvests. Later they went over to the house where Oliver and Esther lived – the house of brick, built to endure by Richard Haven the second. There Esther and Oliver, in the keen joy of belated parenthood, proudly watched the family inspect the precious twins.
“Did you ever see such raven black hair?” cried Richard gaily, touching the tiny, clenched hand of one of his little cousins. “Was I ever that small? Do they sleep all day long, Aunt Esther? Don’t new babies have teeth? When can they ride to town with me on the truck?” The mystery of the first small infants he had ever seen intimately puzzled the boy whose life had been circumscribed by one objective.
“It’s too bad they were not boys, Father.” Kareen smiled at the tiny morsels of humanity. “Oliver deserves a son. You need boys to carry on the farm.”
Father Haven smiled compassionately at Kareen. “We have a son,” he answered. “Richard Haven the third is all that we could ask.”
“Richard is selling the farm – today – to the Japs,” cried Kareen, all indignation that these people could be so obtuse. “The Japs have offered twenty thousand dollars for Richard’s farm! Think of it, Father, twenty thousand dollars for a piece of ground!”
Presently the little party gathered in the old, dingy office of the country lawyer. The windows looked as though they had not been washed since their last meeting there. Flies buzzed about. Looking not one day older, Lawyer Sleed moved with maddening slowness and drawled his words in the same old monotone.
“Here are the papers.” He produced another large envelope from the old-fashioned safe. He handed the envelope to Richard Haven the third, who read the instructions. “To be opened by my son, Richard Haven the III, on his twenty-first birthday.” The youth’s face paled as he hastily scanned the written sheets. It was as though he heard the voice of his father, silent for ten years. As though Richard Haven the II had had clairvoyant powers; as though he had looked down a kaleidoscopic vista into the future of his son.
You will have an opportunity to sell your farm. Your mother will wish you to sell it. She is planning a tour of Europe. You are to be kind to her, but do not go. You are not to sell your land. Never sell it. Keep it, to pass on to your children’s children. It is now time your mother should know all about her parents. Lawyer Sleed has the trunk with things in it which came with the baby Kareen from Europe. Open it for her. Never cut down a tree without planting a seedling to take its place. After a winter of heavy snowfall, you can raise good wheat on the dry farm. You and Oliver will make a good deal of money trucking garden stuff to the city markets. Buy water rights whenever you can. Rotate your crops. Follow Burbank. You will love your land. You are a Haven born.
Richard Haven II.
Only the buzzing flies broke the tense silence as the boy stopped, his voice husky, his eyes dimmed. Finally Peter Smith broke the spell of conflicting emotions. “Mr. Haven,” he cried, “if you would be so kind as to open the trunk. After all these years, Mrs. Kareen has the right to know about her parentage.”
The elaborately carved key was inserted into the lock of the ancient trunk, which the duenna had always kept away from the curious child Kareen, and which Richard Haven had carried to the lawyer’s office before his marriage. The lid was thrown back, revealing a violin case, shiny and old with age, and a small black “strong box,” elaborately carved and decorated. With reverent fingers young Richard opened this box, revealing a portrait of a young woman who might have been his own mother in her youth, and a gold-framed oil painting of an austere old man. The silence of the little audience was suddenly broken by a cry from the lips of the gentle, soft-spoken Peter Smith. He almost fell into the trunk in his eagerness to extract the violin case. “My beloved,” he cried, tears coursing down the delicately formed cheeks. “My lost is found. My Stradivari!” He threw open the lid and there lay within an old violin. To the eyes of the uninitiated, it was only another fiddle; but to the gaze of Peter Smith it was an unsurpassable treasure. The orange red of the secret varnish, known only to Stradivari, was still there; the beautiful long arch of the body, which distinguished it from all its predecessors. “Look! See!” cried the old violinist. “My search is ended! My beloved Parke! The name – the genuine name of Stradivari! the word ‘after Stradivari’ which is written upon thousands of imitations, is missing. Not after, but ‘Stradivari’ is written within! It would bring much money. Museums would pay a fortune for this one violin!” He hugged it to his breast, crying unrestrainedly like a child over a recovered toy.
“Kareen Olga Marie Christiana,” droned the voice of the old lawyer, reading the inscription under the portrait of the beautiful young woman. “Daughter of Prince Rupert Karl Gorgas, of the principality of Ruthiniana.”
“My wife!” again the voice of Peter Smith vibrated through the hot, unlovely old office. “My wife, who died in a convent, never knowing what had become of her husband or child! Her father,” he waved a deprecating hand toward the other portrait, “who condemned me to life exile in the Siberian coal mines, because, being hired to teach the lovely young princess to play, I dared to marry her secretly! Duenna told me,” he added passionately, “that she was ordered to bring the child to America and stay until she had been married to a farmer! But she did not tell me that my beloved violin came with her. I have hunted through all the museums, but never could find a trace of it. My daughter,” he turned to Kareen, “I came purposely to the apartment where you lived. I have trained this boy, because he was my daughter’s son!” The old man made a sweeping, courtly bow, never loosening his firm grasp upon the treasured violin.
Within a short while the old yellowed papers which lay in the box had been read. An old man, prince of a very small principality in Europe, had been so incensed over the clandestine marriage of his daughter that he had banished the bridegroom to Siberia, put the young mother in a convent for life, and had sent the small baby to America in the care of a trusted servant.
Kareen sat nonplused over the strange revelations. At length she spoke. “We now have more reason than ever to return to Europe. My grandfather’s castle will be a fitting environment for Richard’s future studies. This marvelous –”
“My daughter,” cried the old man, “there is no castle. It was shot to pieces. I made a happy escape from a life of slavery! Stay, my beloved, here in this marvelous land of plenty. Stay in peace and contentment with your son. Stay on the farm!”
Kareen turned confidently toward her boy. “It is something to be the great-grandson of a prince,” she added.
Then young Richard Haven the III, came into his full inheritance, spoke to the little group who hung upon his every word.
“I am a farmer born,” he said in slow, even words. “I love music as a hobby, but my life work will be to carry on, as my father willed. Better that I become a wonderful farmer than to be a mediocre musician. I am my father’s son.”
The flies buzzed in the windows. An expression of ineffable peace marked the features of Richard Haven the first, while the old musician wrapped his arms affectionately around his daughter Kareen. “Peace and acceptance, my daughter,” he whispered. “God’s will be done! The boy must be as God willed him to be! Peace and happiness for all. The boy with earth and gardens; you and I with the beloved Stradivari!” He wiped away Kareen’s tears as he spoke, and she, making the great supreme effort of her life, made answer:
“I have known always, Richard – that you were your father’s son. You must be as Henley wrote in his ‘Invictus’ – ‘Captain of your soul!’”