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´╗┐Title: Barriers Burned Away
Author: Roe, Edward Payson, 1838-1888
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Barriers Burned Away" ***

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[Illustration: "HE MAY GET LOST IN THE STORM."]

The Works of E. P. Roe

VOLUME FIVE

BARRIERS BURNED AWAY

ILLUSTRATED



NEW YORK

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, by

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington

COPYRIGHT, 1882

COPYRIGHT, 1885

COPYRIGHT, 1892

COPYRIGHT, 1900,



This Book

IS REVERENTLY DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF MY MOTHER



PREFACE TO THE FIRST EDITION

I shall say but few words in regard to this first child of my
imagination.

About one year ago our hearts were in deepest sympathy with our
fellow-citizens of Chicago, and it occurred to me that their losses,
sufferings, and fortitude might teach lessons after the echoes of the
appalling event had died away in the press; and that even the lurid
and destructive flames might reveal with greater vividness the need
and value of Christian faith.

I spent some days among the smouldering ruins, and then began the
following simple story, which has grown into larger proportions than
I at first intended. But comparatively a small part of the narrative
is occupied with the fire, for its scenes are beyond description, and
too strange and terrible to be dwelt upon. Therefore the thread of my
story is carried rapidly through that period of unparalleled excitement
and disaster.

Nearly all the scenes introduced are historical, and are employed to
give their terrible emphasis to that which is equally true in the
serenest and securest times.

E. P. R.



CONTENTS

CHAPTER I
LOVE UNKNOWN

CHAPTER II
LOVE KNOWN

CHAPTER III
LAUNCHED

CHAPTER IV
COLD WATER

CHAPTER V
A HORNET'S NEST

CHAPTER VI
"STARVE THEN!"

CHAPTER VII
A GOOD SAMARITAN

CHAPTER VIII
YAHCOB BUNK

CHAPTER IX
LAND AT LAST
CHAPTER X
THE NEW BROOM

CHAPTER XI
TOO MUCH ALIKE

CHAPTER XII
BLUE BLOOD

CHAPTER XIII
VERY COLD

CHAPTER XIV
SHE SPEAKS TO HIM

CHAPTER XV
PROMOTED

CHAPTER XVI
JUST IN TIME

CHAPTER XVII
RESCUED

CHAPTER XVIII
MISS LUDOLPH MAKES A DISCOVERY

CHAPTER XIX
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH HIM?

CHAPTER XX
IS HE A GENTLEMAN?

CHAPTER XXI
CHRISTINE'S IDEA OF CHRISTIANS

CHAPTER XXII
EQUAL TO AN EMERGENCY

CHAPTER XXIII
THE REVELATION

CHAPTER XXIV
NIGHT THOUGHTS
CHAPTER XXV
DARKNESS
CHAPTER XXVI
MISS LUDOLPH COMMITS A THEFT

CHAPTER XXVII
A MISERABLE TRIUMPH

CHAPTER XXVIII
LIFE WITHOUT LOVE

CHAPTER XXIX
DENNIS'S LOVE PUT TO PRACTICAL USE

CHAPTER XXX
THE TWO HEIGHTS

CHAPTER XXXI
BEGUILED

CHAPTER XXXII
BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT

CHAPTER XXXIII
THE TWO PICTURES

CHAPTER XXXIV
REGRET

CHAPTER XXXV
REMORSE

CHAPTER XXXVI
AN APPARITION

CHAPTER XXXVII
IF HE KNEW!

CHAPTER XXXVIII
THE GATES OPEN

CHAPTER XXXIX
SUSIE WlNTHROP APPEARS AGAIN

CHAPTER XL
SUGGESTIVE PICTURES AND A PRIZE

CHAPTER XLI
FIRE! FIRE!

CHAPTER XLII
BARON LUDOLPH LEARNS THE TRUTH

CHAPTER XLIII
"CHRISTINE, AWAKE! FOR YOUR LIFE!"

CHAPTER XLIV
ON THE BEACH

CHAPTER XLV
"PRAYER IS MIGHTY." CHRISTINE A CHRISTIAN

CHAPTER XLVI
CHRISTINE'S GRAVE

CHAPTER XLVII
SUSIE WINTHROP

CHAPTER XLVIII
DR. ARTEN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

CHAPTER XLIX
BILL CRONK'S TOAST

CHAPTER L
EVERY BARRIER BURNED AWAY



CHAPTER I

LOVE UNKNOWN


From its long sweep over the unbroken prairie a heavier blast than
usual shook the slight frame house. The windows rattled in the
casements, as if shivering in their dumb way in the December storm.
So open and defective was the dwelling in its construction, that eddying
currents of cold air found admittance at various points--in some
instances carrying with them particles of the fine, sharp, hail-like
snow that the gale was driving before it in blinding fury.

Seated at one of the windows, peering out into the gathering gloom of
the swiftly coming night, was a pale, faded woman with lustrous dark
eyes. An anxious light shone from them, as she tried in vain to catch
a glimpse of the darkening road that ran at a distance of about fifty
yards from the house. As the furious blast shook the frail tenement,
and circled round her in chilly currents from many a crack and crevice,
she gave a short, hacking cough, and drew a thin shawl closer about
her slight frame.

The unwonted violence of the wind had its effect upon another occupant
of the room. From a bed in the corner near the stove came a feeble,
hollow voice--"Wife!"

In a moment the woman was bending over the bed, and in a voice full
of patient tenderness answered, "Well, dear?"

"Has he come?"

"Not yet; but he MUST be here soon."

The word MUST was emphasized in such a way as to mean doubt rather
than certainty, as if trying to assure her own mind of a matter about
which painful misgivings could not be banished. The quick ear of the
sick man caught the tone, and in a querulous voice he said, "Oh! if
he should not get here in time, it would be the last bitter drop in
my cup, now full and running over."

"Dear husband, if human strength and love can accomplish it, he will
be here soon. But the storm is indeed frightful, and were the case
less urgent, I could almost wish he would not try to make his way
through it. But then we know what Dennis is; he never stops to consider
difficulties, but pushes right on; and if--if he doesn't--if it is
possible, he will be here before very long."

In spite of herself, the mother's heart showed its anxiety, and, too
late for remedy, she saw the effect upon her husband. He raised himself
in bed with sudden and unwonted strength. His eyes grew wild and almost
fierce, and in a sharp, hurried voice, he said: "You don't think there
is danger? There is no fear of his getting lost? If I thought that I
would curse God and die."

"Oh, Dennis, my husband, God forbid that you should speak thus! How can
you feel so toward our Best Friend?"

"What kind of a friend has He been to me, pray? Has not my life been
one long series of misfortunes? Have I not been disappointed in all
my hopes? I once believed in God and tried to serve Him. But if, as
I have been taught, all this evil and misfortune was ordered and made
my inevitable lot by Him, He has not been my friend, but my enemy.
He's been against me, not for me."

In the winter twilight the man's emaciated, unshorn face had the
ghostly, ashen hue of death. From cavernous sockets his eyes gleamed
with a terribly vindictive light, akin to insanity, and, in a harsh,
high voice, as unnatural as his appearance and words, he continued:
"Remember what I have gone through! what I have suffered! how often
the cup of success that I was raising to my lips has been dashed to the
ground!"

"But, Dennis, think a moment."

"Ah! haven't I thought till my heart is gall and my brain bursting?
Haven't I, while lying here, hopelessly dying, gone over my life again
and again? Haven't I lived over every disappointment, and taken every
step downward a thousand times? Remember the pleasant, plentiful home
I took you from, under the great elms in Connecticut. Your father did
not approve of your marrying a poor school-teacher. But you know that
then I had every prospect of getting the village academy, but with my
luck another got ahead of me. Then I determined to study law. What
hopes I had! I already grasped political honors that seemed within my
reach, for you know I was a ready speaker. If my friends could only
have seen that I was peculiarly fitted for public life and advanced
me sufficient means, I would have returned it tenfold. But no; I was
forced into other things for which I had no great aptness or knowledge,
and years of struggling poverty and repeated disappointment followed.
At last your father died and gave us enough to buy a cheap farm out
here. But why go over our experience in the West? My plan of making
sugar from the sorghum, which promised so brilliantly, has ended in
the most wretched failure of all. And now money has gone, health has
gone, and soon my miserable life will be over. Our boy must come back
from college, and you and the two little ones--what will you do?" and
the man covered his head with the blanket and wept aloud. His poor
wife, borne down by the torrent of his sorrow, was on her knees at his
bedside, with her face buried in her hands, weeping also.

But suddenly he started up. His sobs ceased. His tears ceased to flow,
while his eyes grew hard and fierce, and his hands clenched.

"But he was coming," he said. "He may get lost in the storm this bitter
winter night."

He grasped his wife roughly by the arm. She was astonished at his
sudden strength, and raised a tearful, startled face to his. It was
well she could not see its terrible expression in the dusk; but she
shuddered as he hissed in her ear, "If this should happen--if my
miserable death is the cause of his death--if my accursed destiny
involves him, your staff and hope, in so horrible a fate, what have
I to do but curse God and die?"

It seemed to the poor woman that her heart would burst with the agony
of that moment. As the storm had increased, a terrible dread had chilled
her very soul. Every louder blast than usual had caused her an internal
shiver, while for her husband's sake she had controlled herself
outwardly. Like a shipwrecked man who is clinging to a rock, that he
fears the tide will submerge, she had watched the snow rise from one
rail to another along the fence. When darkness set in it was half-way
up to the top rail, and she knew it was _drifting_. The thought of her
ruddy, active, joyous-hearted boy, whose affection and hopefulness had
been the broad track of sunlight on her hard path--the thought of his
lying white and still beneath one of these great banks, just where she
could never know till spring rains and suns revealed to an indifferent
stranger his sleeping-place--now nearly overwhelmed her also, and even
her faith wavered on the brink of the dark gulf of despair into which
her husband was sinking. Left to herself, she might have sunk for a
time, though her sincere belief in God's goodness and love would have
triumphed. But her womanly, unselfish nature, her long habit of
sustaining and comforting her husband, came to her aid. Breathing a
quick prayer to Heaven, which was scarcely more than a gasp and a glance
upward, she asked, hardly knowing what she said, "And what if he is
_not_ lost? What if God restores him safe and well?"

She shuddered after she had thus spoken, for she saw that her husband's
belief in the hostility of God had reached almost the point of insanity.
If this test failed, would he not, in spite of all she could say or do,
curse God and die, as he had said? But she had been guided in her
words more than she knew. He that careth for the fall of the sparrow
had not forgotten His children in their sore extremity.

The man in answer to her question relaxed his hold upon her arm, and
with a long breath fell back on his pillow.

"Ah!" said he, "if I could only see him again safe and well, if I could
only leave you with him as your protector and support, I believe I
could forgive all the past and be reconciled even to my hard lot."

"God gives you opportunity so to do, my father, for here I am safe and
sound."

The soft snow had muffled the son's footsteps, and his approach had
been unnoted. Entering at the back door, and passing through the
kitchen, he had surprised his parents in the painful scene above
described. As he saw his mother's form in dim outline kneeling at the
bed, her face buried in its covering--as he heard his father's
significant words--the quick-witted youth realized the situation. While
he loved his father dearly, and honored him for his many good traits,
he was also conscious of his faults, especially this most serious one
now threatening such fatal consequences--that of charging to God the
failures and disappointments resulting from defects in his own
character. It seemed as if a merciful Providence was about to use this
awful dread of accident to the son--a calamity that rose far above and
overshadowed all the past--as the means of winning back the alienated
heart of this weak and erring man.

The effect of the sudden presence in the sick-room was most marked.
The poor mother, who had shown such self-control and patient endurance
before, now gave way utterly, and clung for a few moments to her son's
neck with hysterical energy, then in strong reaction fainted away. The
strain upon her worn and overtaxed system had been too severe.

At first the sick man could only look through the dusk at the outline
of his son with a bewildered stare, his mind too weak to comprehend
the truth. But soon he too was sobbing for joy.

But when his wife suddenly became a lifeless weight in his son's arms,
who in wild alarm cried, "Mother, what is the matter? Speak to me! Oh!
I have killed her by my rash entrance," the sick man's manner changed,
and his eyes again became dry and hard, and even in the darkness had
a strange glitter.

"Is your mother dead?" he asked, in a low, hoarse voice.

"Oh, mother, speak to me!" cried the son, forgetting for a time his
father.

For a moment there was death-like silence. Then the young man groped
for an old settle in the corner of the room, laid his mother tenderly
upon it, and sprang for a light, but as he passed his father's bed the
same strong grasp fell upon his arm that his mother had shuddered under
a little before, and the question was this time hissed in his ear, "Is
your mother dead?" For a moment he had no power to answer, and his
father continued: "What a fool I was to expect God to show mercy or
kindness to me or mine while I was above ground! You are only brought
home to suffer more than death in seeing your mother die. May that God
that has followed me all my life, not with blessings--"

"Hush, father!" cried his son, in loud, commanding tones. "Hush, I
entreat," and in his desperation he actually put his hand over his
father's mouth.

The poor woman must have been dead, indeed, had she long remained deaf
to the voice of her beloved son, and his loud tones partially revived
her. In a faint voice she called, "Dennis!"

With hands suddenly relaxed, and hearts almost stilled in their beating,
father and son listened for a second. Again, a little louder, through
that dark and silent room, was heard the faint call, "Dennis!"

Springing to her side, her son exclaimed, "Oh, mother, I am here; don't
leave us; in mercy don't leave us."

"It was I she called," said his father.

With unnatural strength he had tottered across the room, and taking
his wife's hand, cried, "Oh, Ethel, don't die! don't fill my already
full cup to overflowing with bitterness!"

Their familiar voices were the best of remedies. After a moment she
sat up, and passing her hand across her brow as if to clear away
confusion of mind, said: "Don't be alarmed; it's only a faint turn.
I don't wonder though that you are frightened, for I never was so
before."

Poor woman, amid all the emergencies of her hard lot, she had never
in the past given way so far.

Then, becoming aware of her husband's position, she exclaimed: "Why,
Dennis, my husband, out of your bed? You will catch your death."
"Ah, wife, that matters little if you and Dennis live."

"But it matters much to me," cried she, springing up.

By this time her son had struck a light, and each was able to look on
the other's face. The unnatural strength, the result of excitement, was
fast leaving the sick man. The light revealed him helplessly leaning
on the couch where his wife had lain. His face was ashen in color, and
he was gasping for breath. Tenderly they carried him back to his bed,
and he was too weak now to do more than quietly lie upon it and gaze
at them. After replenishing the fire, and looking at the little ones
that were sleeping in the outer room, they shaded the lamp, and sat
down at his bedside, while the mother asked her son many eager questions
as to his escape. He told them how he had struggled through the snow
till almost exhausted, when he had been overtaken by a farmer with a
strong team, and thus enabled to make the journey in safety.

As the sick man looked and listened, his face grew softer and more
quiet in its expression.

Then the young man, remembering, said: "I bought the medicines you
wrote for, mother, at Bankville. This, the druggist said, would produce
quiet and sleep, and surely father needs it after the excitement of
the evening."

The opiate was given, and soon the regular, quiet breathing of the
patient showed that it had taken effect. A plain but plentiful supper,
which the anxious mother had prepared hours before, was placed upon the
kitchen table, and the young man did ample justice to it; for, the
moment the cravings of his heart were satisfied in meeting his kindred
after absence, he became conscious of the keenest hunger. Toiling
through the snow for hours in the face of the December storm had taxed
his system to the utmost, and now he felt the need of food and rest.
After supper he honestly meant to watch at his father's bedside, while
his mother slept; but he had scarcely seated himself on the old settle,
when sleep, like an armed man, overpowered him, and in spite of all
his efforts he was soon bound in the dreamless slumber of healthful
youth. But with eyes so wide and lustrous that it seemed as if sleep
could never close them again, the wife and mother, pale and silent,
watched between her loved ones. The troubled expression was gone, for
the ranks of her little band had closed up, and all were about her in
one more brief rest in the forward and uncertain march of life. She
seemed looking intently at something far off--something better discerned
by the spiritual than by the natural eye. Disappointments had been
bitter, poverty hard and grinding, but she had learned to escape into
a large world that was fast becoming real to her strong imagination.
While her husband was indulging in chimerical visions of boundless
prosperity here on earth which he would bring to pass by some lucky
stroke of fortune or invention, she also was picturing to herself
grander things which God would realize to her _beyond_ time and
earth. When alone, in moments of rest from incessant toil, she would
take down the great family Bible, and with her finger on some
description of the "new heavens and new earth," as the connecting link
between the promise and her strong realization of it, she would look
away with that intent gaze. The new world, purged from sin and sorrow,
would rise before her with more than Edenlike loveliness. Her spirit
would revel in its shadowy walks and sunny glades, and as the crowning
joy she would meet her Lord and Saviour in some secluded place, and
sit listening at His feet like Mary of old. Thus, in the strong illusion
of her imagination, Christ's words seemed addressed directly to her,
while she looked up into His face with rapt attention. Instead of
_reading_ her Lord's familiar sayings, she seemed to _listen_ to them as
did the early disciples. After a little time she would close the Bible
and go back to her hard practical life, awed yet strengthened, and with
a hopeful expression, like that which must have rested on the disciples'
faces on coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration.



CHAPTER II

LOVE KNOWN


Hour after hour passed. The storm was dying away, and at times, through
broken rifts in the clouds, stars would gleam out. Instead of the
continued roar and rush, the wind blew in gusts at longer intervals,
and nature seemed like a passionate child that had cried itself to
sleep. The fitful blasts were the involuntary sobs that heave the
breast, till at last quiet and peace take the place of stormy anger.

It seemed as if the silent watcher never could withdraw her gaze from
the beautiful world of her vision. Never had it seemed so near and
real before, and she was unconscious of the lapse of time. Suddenly
she heard her name called--"Ethel!"

If the voice had come from the imaginary world present to her fancy,
it could not have startled her more for a moment. Then she realized
that it was her husband who spoke. He had called her name in his sleep,
and yet it seemed a call of God. At once it flashed through her mind
that in dreaming of a glorious and happy future she was forgetting him
and his need.

She turned the light upon his face. Never had he looked so pale and
wan, and she realized that he might be near his end. In an agony of
self-reproach and yearning tenderness she kneeled at his bedside and
prayed as she never had prayed before. Could he go home? Could he be
received, feeling toward his Father as he did? He had talked of
forgiving, when he stood so sorely in need of Christ's forgiveness;
and she had been forgetting that need, when every moment might involve
her husband's salvation. Out of his sleep he had called her to his
help. Perhaps God had used his unconscious lips to summon her. With
a faith naturally strong, but greatly increased by the vision of the
night, she went, as it were, directly into the presence of her Lord,
and entreated in behalf of her husband.

As she thus knelt at the bedside, with her face buried in the covering,
she felt a hand placed softly on her head, and again her husband's
voice called, "Ethel!"

She looked up and saw that he was awake now, his eyes fixed on her
with an expression of softness and tenderness that she had not seen
for many a long day. The old restless, anxious light had gone.

"What were you doing, Ethel?" he asked. "Praying that you might see
that God loved you--that you might be reconciled to Him."

Two great tears gathered in the man's eyes. His lips quivered a moment,
then he said, brokenly, "Surely God must love me, or He would never
have given me--a wife--who would watch and pray for me--the long
winter night."

"Oh, Dennis, forgive me; I cannot deceive you; for a time I forgot
you, I forgot everything, and just wandered through Paradise alone.
But in your sleep you called me to your help, and now it seems as if
I could not be happy even there without you. I pray you, in Christ's
stead, be reconciled to God," she pleaded, falling into the familiar
language of Scripture, as she often did under strong emotion. Then,
in low, thrilling words, she portrayed to him the "new earth" of her
vision, wherein "God shall wipe away all tears, and there shall be no
more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more
pain." She showed him that all might still be well--that eternity was
long enough to make up for the ills of our brief troubled life here.
But his mind seemed preoccupied. These future joys did not take that
hold upon him that she earnestly desired. His eyes seemed to grow dim
in tender, tearful wistfulness, rather than become inspired with
immortal hopes. At last he spoke:

"Ethel, it seemed as if I heard some one calling me. I woke up--and
there you--were praying--for me. I heard my name--I heard God's
name--and I knew that you were interceding for me. It seemed to break
my hard heart right up like the fountains of the great deep to see you
there--praying for me--in the cold, cold room." (The room was not
cold; it was not the winter's chill that he was feeling, but a chill
that comes over the heart even in the tropical summer.) "Then, as you
prayed, a great light seemed to shine into my soul. I saw that I had
been charging God unjustly with all my failures and misfortunes, when
I had to thank myself for them. Like a wilful child, I had been acting
as if God had but to carry out my wild schemes. I remembered all my
unreasonable murmurings and anger; I remembered the dreadful words I
was on the point of uttering tonight, and for a moment it seemed as
if the pit would open and swallow me up."

He paused for breath, and then went on:

"But as my despairing eyes glanced restlessly around, they fell upon
the face of my son, noble and beautiful even in sleep, and I remembered
how God had brought him safely back. Then your low, pleading tone fixed
my attention again. It seemed to me that God's love must be better and
stronger than human love, and yet you had loved me through all my folly
and weakness; so perhaps had He. Then I felt that such a prayer as you
were offering could not remain unheard, you seemed to pray so earnestly.
I felt that I ought to pray myself, and I commenced calling out in my
heart, 'God be merciful to me--a sinner.' Then while I prayed, I
seemed to see my Saviour's face right above your bowed head. Oh, how
reproachfully He looked at me! and yet His expression was full of love,
too. It was just such a look, I think, that He fixed on Peter when he
denied Him. Then it seemed that I fell down at His feet and wept
bitterly, and as I did so the look of reproach passed away, and only
an expression of love and forgiveness remained. A sudden peace came
into my soul which I cannot describe; a rush of tears into my eyes;
and when I had wiped them away, I saw only your bowed form
praying--praying on for me. And, Ethel dear, my patient, much-enduring
wife, I believe God has answered your prayer. I feel that I am a new
man."

"God be praised!" exclaimed his wife, with streaming eyes. Then in a
sudden rush of tenderness she clasped her husband to her heart, her
strong love seeming like the echo of God's love, the earnest here on
earth of that above, where all barriers shall pass away.

The sound of their voices toward the last had awakened their son, and
he now stood beside them with wet eyes and heaving breast.

When the wife rose from her embrace, she saw that her husband was very
weak. For a few moments he gasped for breath. Then, getting a little
easier, he looked up and saw his son, and exclaimed: "Thank God--my
boy--thank God--you are here. Ah, my son--I have learned much--since
we spoke together last. I have seen that--I have much more--need of
forgiveness than--to forgive. Thanks to your--mother's prayers--I
believe--I feel sure that I am forgiven."

"More thanks to God's love, Dennis," said his wife. "God wanted to
forgive you all the time more than we wanted Him to. Thank God, who
is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us. He is
longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish."

"Those are sweet words, wife, and I have found them true."

For a little time they sat with clasped hands, their hearts too full
to speak. Faint streaks along the eastern horizon showed that the dawn
was near. The sick man gave a slight shiver, and passed his hands
across his eyes as if to clear away a mist, and then said, feebly:
"Dennis, my son--won't you turn up the lamp a little--and fix the fire?
The room seems getting so cold--and dark."

The wife looked at her son in quick alarm. The stove was red-hot, and
the lamp, no longer shaded, stood openly on the table.

The son saw that he must take the lead in the last sad scene, for in
the presence of death the heart of the loving, constant woman clung
to her husband as never before. Throwing herself on her knees by his
side, she cried with loud, choking sobs, "Oh, Dennis--husband--I
fear--you are leaving me!"

"Is this death?" he asked of his son, in an awed tone.

"I fear it is, father," said the young man, gently.

After a moment his father said, composedly: "I think you are right.
I feel that--my end is near, Ethel--darling--for my sake--try to be
calm--during the last few moments I am with you."

A few stifled sobs and the room was still.

"I have but little time to--put my house--in order--and if I had
months--I could not do it. Dennis, I leave you--little else--than
debts--embarrassments, and the record of many failures.  You must
do--the best you can. I am not able to advise you. Only never love this
world as I have. It will disappoint you. And, _whatever happens,
never lose faith in the goodness of God_. This has been my bane.
It has poisoned my life here, and, had it not been for this dear wife,
it would have been my destruction here-after. For long years--only her
patient love--has stood between me and a miserable end. Next to God--I
commit her and your little sisters to your care. Be true to this most
sacred trust.

"Ethel, dear, my more than wife--my good angel--what shall I say to
you?" and the man's lip quivered, and for a time he could say no more.
But the unwonted composure had come into his wife's manner. The eyes
were gaining that intent look which was their expression when picturing
to herself scenes in the life beyond.

"Oh, Dennis, we seem just on the confines of a glorious world--it is
so near, so real--it seems as if but a step would take us all into it.
Oh! if you could but see its beauties, its glories--if you could hear
the music, you would not fear to enter. It seems as if we were there
together now."

"Oh, Ethel, come back, come back," cried her husband, piteously. "I
am not worthy of all that. I have no heart for glory now. I can see
only my Saviour's face looking--at me--with love and forgiveness.
That is heaven enough for me--and when you come--my cup will be more
than full. And now--farewell--for a little while."

For a few moments they clung to each other. Then the little girls were
brought, and their father pressed his cold lips to their warm, fresh
young faces. They wondered at a scene they could not understand, and
were tearful because of the tears of others.

He was now going very fast. Suddenly he turned to his son and said,
"Dennis, repeat to me that verse, 'This is a faithful saying--'"

With a voice hoarse and broken by emotion, his son complied: "This is
a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus
came into the world to save sinners."

"Of whom I am chief," said his father, emphatically. "And yet"--his face
lighting up with a wan smile, like a sudden ray of light falling
on a clouded landscape before the sun sinks below the horizon--"and
yet forgiven."

By and by he again whispered, "Forgiven!" Then his eyes closed, and
all was still. They thought he was gone. But as they stood over him
in awed, breathless silence, his lips again moved. Bending down, they
heard in faint, far-away tones, like an echo from the _other side,
"Forgiven!"_



CHAPTER III

LAUNCHED


Scarcely was the last word spoken when a sudden glory filled the room.
So brilliant was the light that mother and son were startled. Then
they saw what had been unnoted before, that day had broken, and that
the sun, emerging from a single dark cloud, was shining, full-orbed,
into the apartment with a light that, reflected from myriads of snowy
crystals, was doubly luminous. Nevertheless it seemed to them a good
omen, an earnest, an emblem of the purer, whiter light into which the
cleansed and pardoned spirit had entered. The snow-wrapped prairie was
indeed pure and bright, but it was _cold_. The Father's embrace,
receiving home the long-absent, erring, but forgiven child, would be
warm indeed.

Though the bereaved wife believed that a brighter dawn than that which
made the world resplendent around her had come to her husband, still
a sense of desolation came over her which only those can understand
who have known a loss like hers. For years he had filled the greater
part of time, thought, and heart. As she saw her first and only love,
the companion of a life which, though hard, still had the light and
solace of mutual affection--as she saw him so still, and realized that
she would hear him speak no more--_complain_ no more (for even the
weaknesses of those we love are sadly missed after death)--a flood
of that natural sorrow which Christianity consoles, but was never
designed to prevent, overwhelmed her, and she gave way utterly.

Her son took her in his arms and held her silently, believing that
unspoken sympathy was worth more at such a time than any words.

After the convulsive sobbing had somewhat ceased, he struck the right
chord by saying: "Mother, father is not lost to us. He himself said
good-by only for a little while. Then you have us to love and think
of; and remember, what could we do without you?"

The unselfish woman would have tried to rise from a bed of death to
do anything needed by her loved ones, and this reminder of those still
dependent on her care proved the most potent of restoratives. She at
once arose and said: "Dennis, you are right. It is indeed wrong for
me to give way thus, when I have so much to be thankful for--so much
to live for. But, O Dennis! you cannot understand this separation of
husband and wife, for God said, 'They twain shall be one flesh'; and
it seems as if half my very life had gone--as if half my heart had
been wrenched away, and only a bleeding fragment left."

The patter of feet was heard on the kitchen floor, the door opened,
and two little figures in white trailing nightgowns entered. At first
they looked in shy wonder and perplexity at their tall brother, whom
they had not seen for months, but at his familiar voice, recalling
many a romp and merry time together, they rushed to his arms as of old.

Then they drew near the bed to give their father his accustomed morning
kiss; but, as they approached, he seemed so still that awe began to
creep over their little faces. A dim recollection of the farewell kiss
given a few hours before, when they were scarcely awake, recurred to
them.

"Father," said the elder (about five), "we want to give you
good-morning kiss."

Seldom had their father been so sick or irritable but that he reached
out his arms to his little ones and gave them a warm embrace, that did
him more good than he realized. The influence of trusting children is
sometimes the most subtile oil that can be thrown on the troubled
waters of life.

But as the little ones saw that their father made no response to their
approach and appeal, they timidly drew a step nearer, and looked into
his wasted, yet peaceful face, with its closed eyes and motionless
repose, and then, turning to their mother, said in a loud whisper,
with faces full of perplexity and trouble, "Is papa asleep?"

The little figures in their white drapery, standing beside their dead
father, waiting to perform the usual, well-remembered household rite,
proved a scene too touching for the poor mother's self-control, and
again she gave way to a burst of sorrow. But her son, true to his
resolution to be the stay and strength of the family, hastened to the
children, and, taking them by the hand, said gently: "Yes, little ones,
papa is asleep. It may be a long time before he wakes, but he surely
will by and by, and then he will never be sick any more. Come, we will
go into the other room and sing a pretty hymn about papa's sleep."

The thought of hearing their brother sing lured them away at once, for
he had a mellow tenor voice that seemed to the little girls sweeter
than a bird's. A moment later the widow's heart was comforted by hearing
those words that have been balm for so many wounds:

    "Asleep in Jesus! blessed sleep!
     From which none ever wakes to weep."

Then, putting on his sisters' flannel wrappers, he set them down by
the fire, telling stories in the meantime to divert their thoughts
from the scene they had just witnessed.

Thus no horror of death was suffered to enter their young minds. They
were not brought face to face with a dreadful mystery which they could
not understand, but which would have a sinister effect for life.
Gradually they would learn the truth, but still the first impression
would remain, and their father's death would ever be to them a sleep
from which he would wake by and by, "never to be sick any more."

Dennis set about preparations for their simple morning meal so deftly
and easily as to show that it was no unaccustomed task. A sister older
than himself had died while yet an infant, leaving a heartache till
he came--God's best remedy. Then two sisters had died after his day,
and he had been compelled to be to his mother daughter as well as son,
to make himself useful in every household task. His father had been
wrapped up in useless inventions, vain enterprises, and was much away.
So mother and son were constantly together. He had early become a great
comfort and help to her, God blessing her in this vital respect, though
her lot seemed hard in other ways. Thus, while he had the heart and
courage of a man, he also had the quick, supple hand and gentle bearing
of a woman, when occasion required. As proof of his skill, a tempting
meal from the simplest materials was placed smoking on the table, and
the little girls were soon chatting contentedly over their breakfast.
In the meantime the wife within had drawn near her dead husband and
taken his cold hand. For a while she dwelt on the past in strong and
tearful agony, then, in accordance with long-established habit, her
thoughts went forward into the future. In imagination she was present
at her husband's reception in heaven. The narrow, meagre room melted
away, and her feet seemed to stand on the "golden pavement." The
jubilant clash of heavenly cymbals thrilled her heart. She seemed
taking part in a triumphal march led by celestial minstrelsy toward
the throne. She saw her husband mount its white, glistening steps, so
changed, and yet so like his former self when full of love, youth, and
hope. He appeared overwhelmed with a sense of unworthiness, but his
reception was all the more kind and reassuring. Then as he departed
from the royal presence, crowned with God's love and favor forever,
though he had all heaven before him, he seemed looking for her as that
he longed for most, and her strong effort to reach his side aroused
her from her revery as from a dream. But her vision had strengthened
her, as was ever the case, and the bitterness of grief was passed.
Imprinting a long kiss on her husband's cold forehead, she joined her
family in the outer room with calm and quiet mien. Her son saw and
understood the change in his mother's manner, and from long experience
knew its cause.

We need not dwell on what followed--preparations for burial, the
funeral, the return to a home from which one who had filled so large
a place had gone--a home on which rested the shadow of death. These
are old, familiar scenes, acted over and over every day, and yet in
the little households where they occur there is a terrible sense of
novelty as if they then happened for the first time. The family feel
as if they were passing through a chaotic period--the old world breaking
up and vanishing, and a new formation and combination of all the
elements that make up life taking place.

Many changes followed. Their farm was sold. Part of a small house in
the village of Bankville was rented as their future residence. A very
small annuity from some property in the East, left by Mrs. Fleet's
father, was, with Dennis's labor, all the family had to depend on
now--a meagre prospect.

But Dennis was very sanguine; for in this respect he had his father's
temperament. The world was all before him, and Chicago, the young and
giant city of the West, seemed an Eldorado, where fortune, and perhaps
fame, might soon be won. He would not only place the family beyond
want, but surround them with every luxury.

Dennis, wise and apt as far as his knowledge went, was in some respects
as simple and ignorant as a child. There were many phases and conditions
of society of which he had never dreamed. Of the ways of the rich and
fashionable, of the character of artificial life, he had not the
remotest experience. He could not see or understand the distinctions
and barriers that to the world are more impassable than those of
ignorance, stupidity, and even gross immorality. He would learn, to
his infinite surprise, that even in a Western democratic city men would
be welcomed in society whose hand no pure woman or honorable man ought
to touch, while he, a gentleman by birth, education, and especially
character, would not be recognized at all. He would discover that
wealth and the indorsement of a few fashionable people, though all
else were lacking, would be a better passport than the noblest qualities
and fine abilities. As we follow him from the seclusion of his simple
country home into the complicated life of the world, all this will
become apparent.

Long and earnest was the conversation between mother and son before
they separated. Pure and noble were the maxims that she sought to
instil into his mind. They may not have been worldly wise, but they
were heavenly wise. Though some of her advice in the letter might avail
little, since she knew less of the world than did her son, still in
its spirit it contained the best of all wisdom, profitable for this
life and the life to come. But she sent him forth to seek his fortune
and theirs with less solicitude than most mothers have just cause to
feel, for she knew that he had Christian principle, and had passed
through discipline that had sobered and matured him far beyond his
years. She saw, however, in every word and act his father's sanguine
temperament. He was expecting much, hoping far more, and she feared
that he also was destined to many a bitter disappointment. Still she
believed that he possessed a good strong substratum of common-sense,
and this combined with the lessons of faith and patience taught of God
would prove the ballast his father had lacked.

She sought to modify his towering hopes and rose-colored visions, but
to little purpose. Young, buoyant, in splendid health, with a surplus
of warm blood tingling in every vein, how could he take a prudent,
distrustful view of the world? It seemed to beckon him smilingly into
any path of success he might choose. Had not many won the victory? and
who ever felt braver and more determined than he, with the needs of
the dear ones at home added to his own incentives and ambitions? So,
with many embraces, lingering kisses, and farewell words, that lost
not their meaning though said over and over again, they parted. The
stage carried him to the nearest railway station, and the express train
bore him rapidly toward the great city where he expected to find all
that a man's heart most craves on earth.

Sanguine as his father, constant as his mother, with a nature that
would go right or wrong with tremendous energy, as direction might be
given it, he was destined to live no tame, colorless life, but would
either enjoy much, or else suffer much. To his young heart, swelling
with hopes, burning with zeal to distinguish himself and provide for
those he was leaving, even the bleak, snow-clad prairie seemed an arena
in which he might accomplish a vague something.



CHAPTER IV

COLD WATER


The train, somewhat impeded by snow, landed Dennis in Chicago at about
nine in the evening. In his pocket he had ten dollars--ample seed corn,
he believed, for a golden harvest. This large sum was expected to
provide for him till he should find a situation and receive the first
instalment of salary. He would inform his employer, when he found him,
how he was situated, and ask to be paid early and often.

Without a misgiving he shouldered the little trunk that contained his
worldly effects, and stalked off to a neighboring hotel, that, from
its small proportions, suggested a modest bill. With a highly important
man-of-the-world manner he scrawled his name in an illegible,
student-like hand on the dingy, dog-eared register. With a gracious,
condescending air he ordered the filthy, tobacco-stained porter to
take his trunk to his room.

The bar-room was the only place provided for strangers.  Regarding the
bar with a holy horror, he got away from it as far as possible, and
seated himself by the stove, on which simmered a kettle of hot water
for the concoction of punches, apparently more in demand at that hotel
than beds.  Becoming disgusted with the profanity and obscenity
downstairs, he sought refuge in the cold, miserable little room assigned
to him. Putting on his overcoat, he wrapped himself up in a coverlet
and threw himself down on the outside of the bed.

The night passed slowly. He was too uncomfortable, too excited, to
sleep. The scenes of the past blended confusedly with visions of the
future, and it was nearly morning when he fell into an unquiet slumber.

When at last aroused by the shriek of a locomotive, he found that the
sun was up and shining on the blotched and broken wall above him. A
few minutes sufficed for his toilet, and yet, with his black curling
hair, noble forehead, and dark, silken upper lip, many an exquisite
would have envied the result.

His plan was simple enough--dictated indeed by the necessities of the
case. He must at once find a situation in which he could earn sufficient
to support his mother and sisters and himself. Thence he could look
around till he found the calling that promised most. Having left college
and given up his chosen profession of the law, he had resolved to adopt
any honest pursuit that seemed to lead most quickly to fortune.

Too impatient to eat his breakfast, he sallied forth into the great
city, knowing not a soul in it. His only recommendations and credentials
were his young, honest face, and a letter from his minister, saying
that he was a member of the church in Bankville, "in good and regular
standing," and, "as far as he knew, a most worthy young man"--rather
meagre capital amid the competitions of a large city. But, with courage
bold and high, he strode off toward the business part of the town.

As he passed the depot it occurred to him that an opening might exist
there. It would be a good post of observation, and perhaps he would
be able to slip home oftener. So he stopped and asked the man in the
ticket-office, blandly, "Do you wish to employ a young man in connection
with this depot or road in any capacity?"

The ticket-man stared at him a moment through his window, frowned, and
curtly said, "No!" and then went on counting what seemed to poor Dennis
millions of money. The man had no right to say yes or no, since he was
a mere official, occupying his own little niche, with no authority
beyond. But an inveterate feud seemed to exist between this man and
the public. He acted as if the world in general, instead of any one
in particular, had greatly wronged him. It might be a meek woman with
a baby, or a bold, red-faced drover, a delicately-gloved or horny hand
that reached him the change, but it was all the same. He knitted his
brows, pursed up his mouth, and dealt with all in a quick, jerking
way, as if he could not bear the sight of them, and wanted to be rid
of them as soon as possible. Still these seem just the peculiarities
that find favor with railroad corporations, and the man would probably
vent his spite against the public throughout his natural life.

From him, however, Dennis received his first dash of cold water, which
he minded but little, and went on his way with a good-natured laugh
at the crusty old fellow.

He was soon in the business part of the city. Applying at a large
dry-good store, he was told that they wanted a cash boy; "but he would
not do; one a quarter his size would answer."

"Then I will go where they want the other three-fourths and pay
accordingly," said Dennis, and stalked out.

He continued applying at every promising place, but to no purpose. It
was midwinter; trade was dull; and with clerks idling about the shops
employers were in no mood to add to their number.

At last he found a place where an assistant book-keeper was wanted.
Dennis's heart leaped within him, but sank again as he remembered how
little he knew of the art. "But I can learn quickly," he thought to
himself.

The man looked carelessly at his poor little letter, and then said,
in a business-like tone, "Show me a specimen of your handwriting."

Poor Dennis had never written a good hand, but at college had learned
to write a miserable scrawl, in rapidly taking notes of lectures.
Moreover, he was excited, and could not do himself justice. Even from his
sanguine heart hope ebbed away; but he took the pen and scratched
a line or two, of which he himself was ashamed. The man looked at them
with an expression of mild disgust, and then said, "Mr. Jones, hand
me your ledger."

The head book-keeper passed the volume to his employer, who showed
Dennis entries looking as from copper-plate, and quietly remarked:
"The young man we employ must write like that, and thoroughly understand
book-keeping. Good-morning, sir."

Dennis walked out, feeling almost as crestfallen as if he had been
convicted of stealing, but the noon-day sun was shining in the sky,
the streets were full of life and bustle, and hope revived.

"I shall find the right niche before long," he said to himself, and
trudged on.

Some time after he entered a retail dry-goods store.

"Yes, they wanted a young man there, but he was rather old."

Still the merchant saw that Dennis was fine-looking, would appear well
behind the counter, and make a taking salesman with the ladies, he
stopped to parley a moment more.

"Do you understand the business?"

"No, sir; but I can soon learn, for I am young and strong."

"Strength is not what is needed, but experience. Ours is not the kind
of work for Paddies."

"Well, sir," said Dennis, rather shortly, "I'm not a Paddy."

The dapper little retailer frowned slightly at Dennis's tone, and
continued: "You spoke as if main strength was the principal thing.
Have you had any experience at all?"

"No, sir."

But seeing intelligence in the young man's face, and scenting a sharp
bargain, he said, "Why, then, you would have to begin at tho very
beginning, and learn the name of everything, its quality, etc."

"Yes, sir; but I would do my very best."

"Of course, of course, but nothing can take the place of experience.
I expect, under the circumstances, you would look for very little
remuneration the first year?"

"How much could you give?"

The man named a sum that would not have supported Dennis alone.

He replied that, though his services might not be worth more than that,
he was so situated that he could not take a very small salary.

"Then bring something besides ignorance to the market," said the man,
turning on his heel.

Dennis was now hungry, tired, and disappointed. Indeed the calls of
appetite became so clamorous that he sought a cheap restaurant. After
demolishing a huge plate of such viands as could be had at little cost,
he sat brooding over a cup of coffee for an hour or more. The world
wore a different aspect from that which it had presented in the morning,
and he was lost in a sort of dull, painful wonder.

But the abundant meal and slight element of coffee that colored the
lukewarm water quite heartened him again. He resolved to go back to
his hotel and find a more quiet and comfortable place in which to lodge
until something permanent offered. He made what he considered sufficient
inquiry as to the right direction, and resolved to save even the carfare
of five cents by walking the distance.

But whether he had not understood the directions rightly, or whether,
brooding over the events of the day, his mind had been too preoccupied
to heed them, he found to his great disgust, after walking two or three
miles, that he had gone away from his destination instead of toward
it. Angry with himself, out of humor with all the world, he began to
give way to the latent obstinacy of his nature. Though everything went
"contrairy," there was one thing under his control--himself--and he
would make that do the bidding of his will.

Turning on his heel, he resolved with dogged resolution to walk back
the whole distance. He would teach himself a lesson. It was fine
business, just when he needed his wits so sorely, to commence blundering
in this style. No wonder he had failed during the day; he deserved to
fail in other respects, since in this one he had not shown the good
sense of a child.

When people are "out of sorts," and things are going wrong, the
disposition to blame somebody or something is almost universal. But
we think that it will be found a safe general rule, that the nobler
the nature, the less worthy of blame, the greater the tendency to blame
self rather than anything else. Poor Dennis had no great cause for
bitter reproaches, and yet he plodded on with an intense feeling of
self-disgust.

To think that after New-England schools and three years in college he
should write such a hand and have no definite knowledge of book-keeping!
"What have I learned, I'd like to know?" he muttered. Then to go and
lose his way like a country bumpkin! and he gnawed his lips with
vexation.

The street-cars glided often and invitingly by, but he would not even
look at them.

At last, foot-sore and fairly aching with cold and fatigue, he reached
the little hotel, which appeared more miserable, obscure, and profane
than ever. But a tempting fiend seemed to have got into the gin and
whiskey bottles behind the red-nosed bartender. To his morbid fancy
and eyes, half-blinded with wind and cold, they appeared to wink,
beckon, and suggest: "Drink and be merry; drink and forget your
troubles. We can make you feel as rich and glorious as a prince, in
ten minutes."

For the first time in his life Dennis felt a strong temptation to drink
for the sake of the effects. When was a man ever weak that the devil
did not charge down upon him?

But the evil and ruin wrought in one case proved another's safeguard,
for the door opened and a miserable wreck of a man entered. As Dennis
looked at his blotched, sodden face, trembling hand, shuffling gait,
and general air of wretchedness, embodying and suggesting the worst
ills of humanity, he decided not to drink for the sake of the effects.

Then came another rush of self-disgust that he had ever entertained
such a temptation, and he flung himself off supperless to bed.

As he bowed that night he could not pray as usual. For anger, passion
with one's self, as well as with any one else, renders true prayer
impossible. But he went through the form, and then wrapped himself up
as before. The wearied body soon mastered the perturbed mind, and he
fell into a heavy sleep that lasted till morning.



CHAPTER V

A HORNET'S NEST


Dennis awoke greatly refreshed and strengthened. For half an hour he
lay quietly thinking over the scenes of the preceding day; something
of his old anger returned, but he compressed his lips, and, with a
face expressing the most resolute purpose, determined that the day
before him should tell a different story. Every faculty and energy he
possessed should be skilfully bent to the attainment of his objects.
Wise deliberation should precede everything. He would write a few lines
to his mother, decide as to a lodging-place, and then seek better
success in another part of the city. He went to the bar and inquired
as to his bill, and found that so far as bed and meals were concerned,
such as they were, he could not find anything cheaper in the city, the
house evidently not depending on these for its revenue. Disgusted as
he was with his surroundings, he resolved to lose no time in looking
for a new boarding-place, but, after writing to his mother, to start
off at once in search of something permanent. He was in no mood to
consult personal wishes, and the saving of time and money settled the
question.

Where should he write? There was no place save a desk at the end of
the bar. Looking askance at the half-filled, villanous-smelling bottle
at his elbow, he wrote in a hand stiff and unnatural (for he had
resolved to change his scrawl to a business hand at once), the following
note:

"CHICAGO, ILL., Jan. 10th.

"DEAR MOTHER--I arrived safely, and am very well. I did not, yesterday,
find a situation suited to my taste, but expect better success to-day.
I am just on the point of starting out on my search, and when settled
will write you full particulars. Many kisses for yourself and the
little girls. Your affectionate son, DENNIS."

"There! there is nothing in that to worry mother, and soon I shall
have good news for her." (If he had seen its reception, he would have
learned his mistake. The intuitions of love are keen, and this formal
negative note in the constrained hand told more of his disappointment
than any words could have done. While he knew it not, his mother was
suffering with him. In reply she wrote a letter full of general
sympathy, intending to be more specific when he gave her his
confidence.)

Dennis folded the letter most carefully and mailed it--for he was now
doing the least thing with the utmost precision--with the air of one
who meant to find out the right thing to do, and then to do it to a
hair-breadth. Nothing should go wrong that day. So at an early hour
he again sallied forth.

Not far from the hotel there was a new grocery store about to be opened
by two young men, formerly clerks, but now setting up for themselves.
They stood at the door receiving a cart-load of goods as Dennis
approached. He had made up his mind to ask at every opportunity, and
to take the first thing that promised fairly; he would also be very
polite. Touching his hat to the young men--a little act pleasing to
them in their newly acquired dignity as heads of a firm which as yet
had no subordinates--Dennis asked if they would need any assistance.
Graciously replying to his salutations, they answered, yes; they wanted
a young man.

Dennis explained that he was from the country, and showed the
ministerial letter. The young grocers looked wise over it, seemed
pleased, said they wanted a young fellow from the country, that was
not up to city tricks. Chicago was a hard place on young men--spoiled
most of them. Glad he was a member of the church. They were not, but
believed a man must be mighty good to be one. As the young man they
hired must sleep in the store, they wanted one they could trust, and
would prefer a church member.

The salary they offered was not large, but pretty fair in view of his
having so much to learn, and it was intimated, that if business was
good, and he suited, it would be increased. The point uppermost in
their minds was to find some one with whom they could trust their store
and goods, and this young man from the country, with a letter from a
minister, seemed a godsend.

They engaged him, but just as he was starting, with heart swelling
with self-satisfaction and joy, one of the firm asked, carelessly,
"Where are you staying?'"

"At Gavin's Hotel."

The man turned sharply, and looked most suspiciously at him, and then
at his partner, who gave a low whistle of surprise, and also eyed the
young man for a moment askance. Then the men stepped aside, and there
was a brief whispered consultation. Dennis's heart sank within him.
He saw that something was wrong, but what, he had not the least idea.
The elder member of the embryo firm now stepped up and said, decidedly,
"Good-morning, young man; we shall not need your services."

"What do you mean?" cried Dennis, in a voice of mingled dismay and
indignation.

The man's face was growing red with anger, but he said, coldly, "You
had better move on. _We_ understand."

"But _I_ don't understand, your course toward me is most unjust."

"Look here, young man, we are too old birds to be caught by any such
light chaff as you have about you. You are a pretty church member, you
are! You are a smart one, you are; nice boy, just from the country;
suppose you do not know that Gavin's Hotel is the worst gambling hole
in the city, and every other man that goes there a known thief. Come,
you had better move on if you do not want to get into trouble. You
will make nothing here."

"But I tell you, gentlemen--" cried Dennis, eagerly.

"_You_ may tell what you please. _We_ tell you that we would not believe
any one from that den under oath. Now you leave!"

The last words were loud and threatening. The attention of passers-by
was drawn toward them, and Dennis saw that further words were useless.
In the minds of shrewd but narrow business men, not over-honest
themselves, more acquainted with the trickery of the world than with
its virtues, suspicion against any one is fatal, and most assuredly
so against a stranger with appearances unfavorable.

With heart wellnigh bursting with anger, disappointment, and shame,
Dennis hastened away. He had been regarded as a thief, or at best a
blackleg, seeking the position for some sinister purpose. This was the
opening scene of the day on which he had determined that no mistakes
should be made, and here at the outset he had allowed himself to be
identified with a place of notorious ill-repute.

Reaching the hotel, he rushed upstairs, got his trunk, and then turned
fiercely on the red-nosed bartender-"Why did you not tell me the
character of this place?"

"What kind of a place is it?" asked that functionary, coolly, arms
akimbo.

"You know well enough. You knew I was not one of your sort."

"You don't mean to say that this is a bad place, do you?" said the
barkeeper, in mock solemnity.

"Yes, the worst in Chicago. There is your money."

"Hold on here, my small chicken; there is some money, but not enough
by a jugful. I want five dollars out of you before you take that trunk
off."

"Why, this is sheer robbery," exclaimed Dennis.

"Oh, no; just keeping up the reputation of the house. You say it is
the worst in Chicago: must try and keep up our reputation."

"Little fear of that; I will not pay it;" and Dennis started for his
trunk.

"Here, let that trunk alone; and if yer don't give me that five dollars
cussed quick, I'll put a head on yer;" and he of the red nose put his
hands on the bar in readiness to spring over.

"I say, young feller," said a good-natured loafer standing by, "you
had better gin him the five dollars; for Barney is the worst one in
all Chicago to put a head on a man."

"And will you stand by and see this outrage?" said Dennis, appealing
to him.

"Oh, gosh!" said the man, "I've got quarrels 'nough of my own without
getting my head broke for fellers I don't know."

Dennis was almost speechless from indignation. Conscious of strength,
his strong impulse for a moment was to spring at the throat of the
barkeeper and vent his rage on him. There is a latent tiger in every
man. But a hand seemed to hold him back, and a sober second thought
came over him. What! Dennis Fleet, the son of Ethel Fleet, brawling,
fighting in a bar-room, a gambling-den, and going out to seek a
situation that required confidence and fair-appearing, all blackened,
bruised, and bleeding! As the truth flashed upon him in strong revulsion
of feeling he fairly turned pale and sick.

"There's the money," said he, hoarsely, "and God forgive you."

In a moment he had taken his trunk and was gone. The barkeeper stared
after him, and then looked at the money with a troubled and perplexed
face.

"Wal," said he, "I'm used enough to havin' folk ask God to damn me,
but I'm blessed if I ever had one ask Him to forgive me, before. I be
hanged," said he, after a moment, as the thought grew upon him--"I
be hanged if I wouldn't give him back the money if he hadn't gone so
quick."

With heart full of shame and bitterness, Dennis hastened down the
street. At the corner he met a policeman, and told him his story. All
the satisfaction he got was, "You ought not to go to such a place. But
you're lucky if they only took five dollars from you; they don't
let off many as easy as that."

"Can I have no redress?"

"Now look here; it's a pretty ticklish thing to interfere with them
fellers. It'll cost you plaguy sight more'n that, and blood, too, like
enough. If you'll take my advice, you won't stir up that hornet's
nest."



CHAPTER VI

"STARVE THEN!"


Dennis now followed the natural impulse to go to some distant part of
the city, entirely away from the region that had become so hateful to
him.

Putting the trunk on the front of a street-car, he rode on till he was
in the heart of the south-side district, the great business centre.
He took his trunk into a roomy hardware store, and asked if he might
leave it there a while. Receiving a good-natured permission, he next
started off in search of a quiet, cheap boarding-place. His heart was
heavy, and yet he felt thankful to have escaped as he had, for the
thought of what might have been his experience if Barney had tried to
fulfil his threat sickened him. The rough was as strong as he, and
scenes of violence were his delight and daily experience. He rather
gloried in a black eye, for he always gave two in exchange, and his
own bruised, swollen member paved the way gracefully for the telling
of his exploits, as it awakened inquiry from the lesser lights among
whom he shone. But what would Dennis have done among the merchants
with "a head on him," as the barkeeper understood the phrase? He would
have had to return home, and that he felt would be worse than death.
In fact, he had come nearer to a desperate struggle than he knew, for
Barney rarely resisted so inviting an opportunity to indulge his
pugilistic turn, and had he not seen the policeman going by just at
that time, there would have been no idle threats in the case.

Dennis set his teeth with dogged resolution, determined if necessary,
to persevere in his search till he dropped in the street. But as he
remembered that he had less than five dollars left, and no prospect
of earning another, his heart grew like lead.

He spent several weary hours in the vain search for a boarding-house.
He had little to guide him save short answers from policemen. The
places were either too expensive, or so coarse and low that he could
not bring himself to endure them. In some cases he detected that they
were accompanied by worse evils than gambling. Almost in despair,
tired, and very hungry (for severe indeed must be the troubles that
will affect the appetite of healthful youth on a cold winter day), he
stopped at a small German restaurant and hotel. A round-faced, jolly
Teuton served him with a large plate of cheap viands, which he devoured
so quickly that the man, when asked for more, stared at him for a
moment, and then stolidly obeyed.

"What do you ask for a small room and bed for a night?" said Dennis.

"Zwei shillen," said the waiter, with a grin; "dot ish, if you don't
vant as pig ped as dinner. Ve haf zwei shillen for bed, and zwei shillen
for efery meal--von dollar a day--sheap!"

The place was comparatively clean. A geranium or two bloomed in the
window, and lager instead of fiery whiskey seemed the principal beverage
vended. Dennis went out and made inquiries, and every one in the
neighborhood spoke of it as a quiet, respectable place, though
frequented only by laboring people. "That is nothing against it,"
thought Dennis. "I will venture to stay there for a night or two, for
I must lose no more time in looking for a situation."

He took his trunk there, and then spent the rest of the day in
unavailing search. He found nothing that gave any promise at all. In
the evening he went to a large hotel and looked over the files of
papers. He found a few advertisements for clerks and experts of various
kinds, but more from those seeking places. But he noted down everything
hopeful, and resolved that he would examine the morning papers by
daylight for anything new in that line, and be the first on hand. His
new quarters, though plain and meagre, were at least clean. Too weary
to think or even to feel more than a dull ache in his heart, he slept
heavily till the dawn of the following day. Poor fellow! it seemed to
him that he had lived years in those two days.

He was up by daylight, and found a few more advertisements that looked
as if they might lead to something. As early as it was possible to see
the parties, he was on the ground, but others were there as soon as
himself. They had the advantage of some knowledge and experience in
the duties required, and this decided the question. Some spoke kindly,
and suggested that he was better fitted for teaching than for business.

"But where am I to find a position at this season of the year, when
every place is filled?" asked Dennis. "It might be weeks before I could
get anything to do, and I must have employment at once."

They were sorry, hoped he would do well, turned away, and went on doing
well for themselves; but the majority merely satisfied themselves that
he would not answer their purpose, and bade him a brief, business-like
good-morning. And yet the fine young face, so troubled and anxious,
haunted a good many of those who summarily dismissed him. But "business
is business."

The day passed in fruitless inquiry. Now and then he seemed on the
point of succeeding, but only disappointment resulted. There were at
that season of the year few situations offering where a salary
sufficient for maintenance was paid, and for these skilled laborers
were required. Dennis possessed no training for any one calling save
perhaps that of teacher. He had merely the fragment of a good general
education, tending toward one of the learned professions. He had fine
abilities, and undoubtedly would in time have stood high as a lawyer.
But now that he was suddenly called upon to provide bread for himself
and those he loved, there was not a single thing of which he could
say, "I understand this, sir, and can give you satisfaction."

He knew that if he could get a chance at almost anything, he could
soon learn enough to make himself more useful than the majority
employed, for few had his will and motive to work. But the point was
to find some one who would pay sufficient for his own and his mother's
support while he learned.

It is under just such circumstances that so many men, and especially
women, make shipwreck. Thrown suddenly upon their own resources, they
bring to the great labor-market of the world general intelligence, and
also general ignorance. With a smattering of almost everything, they
do not know practically how to do _one thing well_. Skilled hands,
though backed by neither heart nor brains, push them aside. Take the
young men or the young women of any well-to-do town or village, and
make them suddenly dependent upon their own efforts, and how many could
compete in any one thing with those already engaged in supplying the
market? And yet just such helpless young creatures are every day
compelled to shift for themselves. If to these unfortunates the paths
of honest industry seem hedged and thorny, not so those of sin. They
are easy enough at first, if any little difficulty with conscience can
be overcome; and the devil, and fallen humanity doing his work, stand
ready to push the wavering into them.

At the close of the next day, spent in weary search, Dennis met a
temptation to which many would have yielded. As a last resort he had
been going around among the hotels, willing to take even the situation
of porter, if nothing better offered. The day was fast closing, when,
worn out and dejected, he entered a first-class house, and made his
usual inquiry. The proprietor looked at him for a moment, slapped him
on the back, and said: "Yes, you are the man I want, I reckon. Do you
drink? No! might have known that from your face. Don't want a man that
drinks for this place. Come along with me, then. Will give you two and
a half a day if you suit, and pay you every night. I pay my help
promptly; they ain't near so apt to steal from you then."

And the man hurried away, followed by Dennis with beating heart and
flushed, wondering face. Descending a flight of stairs, they entered
a brilliantly lighted basement, which was nothing less than a large,
elegantly arranged bar-*room, with card and lunch-tables, and
easy-chairs for the guests to smoke and tipple in at their leisure.
All along one side of this room, resplendent with cut glass and polished
silver, ran the bar. The light fell warm and mellow on the various
kinds of liquor, that were so arranged as to be most tempting to the
thirsty souls frequenting the place.

Stepping up to the bulky man behind the bar the landlord said: "There,
Mr. Swig, is a young man who will fill capitally the place of the chap
we dismissed to-day for getting tight. You may bet your life from his
face that he don't drink. You can break him in in a few days, and you
won't want a better assistant."

For a moment a desperate wish passed through Dennis's mind, "Oh, that
wrong were right!" Then, indignant with himself, he spoke up, firmly--"I
think I have a word to say in this matter."

"Well, say on, then; what's the trouble?"

"I cannot do this kind of work."

"You will find plenty harder."

"None harder for one believing as I do. I will starve before I will
do this work."

The man stared at him for a moment, and then coolly replied, "Starve
then!" and turned on his heel and walked away.

Dennis also rushed from the place, followed by the coarse, jeering
laugh of those who witnessed the scene. In his morbid, suffering state
their voices seemed those of mocking demons.

The night had now fallen. He was too tired and discouraged to look any
further. Wearily he plodded up the street, facing the bitter blast
filled with snow that had begun to fall.

This then was the verdict of the world--"Starve!" This was the only
prospect it offered--that same brave world which had so smilingly
beckoned him on to great achievements and unbounded success but a few
days since--"Starve!" Every blast that swept around the corners howled
in his ears, "Starve!" Every warmly clad person hurrying unheedingly
by seemed to say by his indifference, "Starve! who cares? there is no
place for you, nothing for you to do."

The hard, stern resolution of the past few days, not to yield an inch,
to persist in hewing his way through every difficulty, began to flag.
His very soul seemed crushed within him. Even upon the threshold of
his life, in his strong, joyous youth, the world had become to him
what it literally was that night, a cold, wintry, stormy place, with
a black, lowering sky and hard, frozen earth.

His father's old temptation recurred to him with sudden and great
power. "Perhaps father was right," he mused. "God was against him, and
is also against me, his son. Does He not visit the iniquity of the
fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation? Not
but that He will save us at last, if we ask Him, but there seems some
great wrong that must be severely punished here. Or else if God does
not care much about our present life, thinking only of the hereafter,
there must be some blind fate or luck that crushes some and lifts up
others."

Thus Dennis, too sad and morbid to take a just view of anything, plodded
on till he reached his boarding-place, and stealing in as if he had
no business to be there, or anywhere else, sat down in a dusky corner
behind the stove, and was soon lost to surrounding life in his own
miserable thoughts.



CHAPTER VII

A GOOD SAMARITAN


Dennis was too good a Christian, and had received too deep a lesson
in his father's case, to become bitter, angry, and defiant, even if
he had believed that God was against him. He would have felt that it
was simply his duty to submit--to endure patiently. Somehow Until
to-day his heart had refused to believe that God could be against any
of His creatures. In fact, it was his general impression that God had
everything to do with his being a good Christian, but very little with
his getting a good place. The defect in his religion, and that of his
mother, too, was that both separated the spiritual life of the soul
too widely from the present life with its material, yet essential,
cares and needs. At this point they, like multitudes of others, fell
short of their full privilege, and enjoyment of God's goodness. His
mother had cheered and sustained her hard lot by hopes and visions of
the better life beyond--by anticipating joys to come. She had never
fully learned how God's love, like the sunlight, could shine upon and
brighten the thorny, rocky way, and cause the thorns to blossom, and
delicate fragrant flowers to grow in the crevices and bloom in shaded
nooks among the sharp stones. She must wait for her consolation. She
must look out of her darkness to the light that shone through the
portals of the tomb, forgetting that God caused His servants to sing
at midnight, in the inner prison, the deepest dungeon, though scourged
and bleeding.

Unconsciously her son had imbibed the same ideas.

Most devoutly he asked every day to be kept from sin, that he might
grow in the Christian life; but he did not ask or expect, save in a
vague, general way, that help which a wise, good, earthly father would
give to a young, inexperienced child, struggling with the hard,
practical difficulties of this world. As the days grew darker and more
full of disappointment, he had asked with increasing earnestness that
he might be kept from sin--from falling before the many and peculiar
temptations that assailed him; and we have seen how God answered his
prayer, and kept him where so many would have fallen. But God meant
to show him that His goodness extended further than he thought, and
that He cared for His children's well-being now as truly as in the
hereafter, when He gathered them home into His immediate presence. But
Dennis could not see this now. As far as he thought at all on the
subject, he had the vague feeling that God was either trying his faith
or meting out some righteous judgment, and he must do the best he
could, and only see to it that he did not sin and give way morally.

Yet, in the thick night of his earthly prospects, Dennis still loved
and trusted God. He reasoned justly, that if at last brought to such
a place as heaven, no matter what he suffered here, he had only cause
for unbounded gratitude. And he felt sure that all would be right in
the end, but now feared that his life would be like his father's, a
tissue of disappointments, and that he, an unsuccessful voyager,
storm-tossed and shipwrecked, would be thrown upon the heavenly shore
by some dark-crested billow of misfortune.

Thus Dennis sat lost in gloomy musings, but too wearied in mind and
body to follow any line of thought long. A few stern facts kept looming
up before him, like rocks on which a ship is drifting. He had less
than a dollar in his pocket. It was Friday night. If he did not get
anything to do on Saturday, how was he going to live through Sunday
and the days that followed? Then his dependent mother and sisters rose
up before him. They seemed to his morbid fancy hungry and cold, and
their famine-pinched faces full of reproach. His head bowed lower, and
he became the very picture of dejection.

He was startled by a big, hearty voice at his side, exclaiming: "What
makes yer so down in the mouth? Come, take a drink, and cheer up!"

Raising his eyes, he saw a round, red face, like a harvest moon, shining
full upon him. It was somewhat kindly in its expression, in keeping
with the words. Rough as was the courtesy, it went straight to the
lonely, discouraged heart of the young man, and with moistened eyes
he said, "I thank you for speaking to me in a tone that has a little
human touch in it, for the last man that spoke to me left an echo in
my ear that I would gladly get out of it."

"Bad luck to him, then! Give us yer hand; there!" with a grip like a
vise. "Bill Cronk never went back on a man he took to. I tell yer what,
stranger," said he, becoming confidential, "when I saw yer glowering
and blinking here in the corner as if yer was listening to yer own
funeral sermon, I be ---- if I could take a comfortable drink. Come,
now, take a good swig of old rye, and see how things will mellow up."

Our good Samaritan in this case was a very profane and disreputable
one, as many are in this medley world. He had a great, kindly nature,
that was crawling and grovelling in all sorts of low, unseemly places,
instead of growing straight up toward heaven.

"I hope you will think me none the less friendly if I decline," said
Dennis. "I would drink with you as quick as with any man living, but
it is a thing I never do."

"Oh, you're temperance, are yer? Well, I don't think none the wuss of
yer for standing by yer colors. Between us, it would be better for me
if I was a little more so. Hang it all! I take a drop too much now and
then. But what is a fellow to do, roughing it up and down the world
like me? I should often get lonely and mope in the corner as you did,
if I didn't get up steam. When I am down in the mouth I take a drink
to 'liven me up, and when I feel good I take a drink to make me feel
better. When I wouldn't take a drink on my own hook, I meet somebody
that I'd ought to drink with. It is astonishing how many occasions
there are to drink, 'specially when a man's travelling, like me."

"No fear but what the devil will make occasions enough," said Dennis.

"What has the devil got to do with it?" asked the man, gruffly.

Just then the miserable wretch entered who, appearing opportunely in
Gavin's Hotel, had cured Dennis of his desire to drink, when weary and
despondent, for the sake of the effects. For a moment they looked at
the blear-eyed, trembling wreck of a man, and then Dennis asked, "Had
God any hand in making that man what he is?"

"I should say not," said Bill Cronk, emphatically.

"Well, I should say the devil had," said Dennis; "and there behind the
bar are the means used--the best tool he has, it seems to me; for with
it he gets hold of men with some heart and soul in them, like you."

The man winced under the words that both conscience and experience
told him were true; at the same time he was propitiated by Dennis's
good opinion of him. He gave a big, good-natured laugh, slapped Dennis
on the shoulder, and said: "Wal, stranger, p'raps you're right. 'Tain't
every temperance lecturer though that has an awful example come in
just at the right time so slick. But you've stood by yer colors, and
we won't quarrel. Tell us, now, if it ain't private, what you're so
chopfallen about."

Dennis told his story, as grateful for this rough sympathy as a thirsty
traveller would be in finding a spring though surrounded by thorns and
rocks.

The round, jolly face actually grew long and serious through interest
in the young man's tribulations.

After scratching a shaggy but practical head for a few moments, Bill
spoke as follows:

"Seems to me the case is just this: here you are, a young blooded colt,
not broken to either saddle or thills--here you are whinnying around a
market where they want nothing but dray-hosses. People look shy at
you--usually do at a strange hoss. Few know good p'ints when they see
'em. When they find you ain't broke in to nothin', they want you to
work for nothin'. I see how you can't do this. And yet fodder is runnin'
short, and you must do somethin'."

Bill, having dealt in live-stock all his life, naturally clothed his
thoughts in language drawn from familiar objects, and Dennis, miserable
as he was, half smiled at the close parallel run between him and a
young, useless colt; but he only said, "I don't think there is a
cart-horse in all Chicago that feels more broken down and dispirited
than I do to-night."

"That may all be, too," said Bill; "but you'd feel a little oats mighty
quick, and a cart-hoss wouldn't. But I know the p'ints, whether it's
a man or a hoss; you'd take kindly to work of the right sort, and it
would pay any one to take you at yer own terms, but you can't make 'em
see it. If I was in a situation to take you, I'd do it in a minute.
Hang it all! I can't do much for you, either. I took a drop too much
in Cleveland t'other night, and some of the folks in the house looked
over my pocket-book and left me just enough to get home with."

Dennis shook his head reproachfully and was about to speak.

"I know what you're going to say," said Bill, heading off another
temperance lecture. "I'll take a drink by and by, and think over what
you've said, for I can't think much until I get a little steam up. But
now we must try and see some way out of the fog for you;" and again
in absence of the wonted steam he scratched the shaggy head vigorously.

"Seems to me the best thing for you is to do as I did when I first
broke the home pasture and started out on a rampage. I just grabbed
the fust job that come along, good, bad, or indifferent--always kept
doing something. You can look for a bird in the bush quite well when
you've got one in the hand as when you hain't. To be sure I wasn't as
squeamish as you are. I'd jumped at the offer you had this afternoon;
but I reckon I'd taken toll too often to be very profitable. But in
this way I always kept a-goin'--never got down underfoot so the stronger
ones could tread on me. When it comes to that, I want to die. Now if
you've got plenty of clear grit--Leetle disposed to show the white
feather though, to-night, ain't yer?"

Dennis flushed up, and was about to speak, almost angrily.

"There! there!" said his new friend. "I said yer wasn't a cart-hoss:
one touch of the spur and up goes tail and ears, and then look out.
Are yer ashamed to do any kind of honest work? I mean kinder pious
work, that hasn't any smack of the devil you're so afraid of in it?"

"No! work is just what I want."

"Would you black boots, now?"

Dennis winced, thought a moment, and then, with a manly flush, said,
"Yes, before I would take a cent of charity from any living soul."

"Give us yer hand again. You're the kind of critter I like to invest
in; for you'd improve on a feller's hands. No fear about you; the only
thing is to get you in harness before a load that will pay to haul."

Suddenly he got up, strode to the bar-room door, looked out into the
night, and came back again.

"I think I know of a way in which you can make two or three dollars
to-morrow."

"How?" exclaimed Dennis, his whole face lighting up with hope.

"Go to a hardware store, invest in a big wooden snow-shovel, and clean
off sidewalks before stores. You can pick up a good many quarters
before night, like enough."

"I will do it," said Dennis, heartily, "and thank you warmly for the
suggestion, and for your kindly interest generally," and he looked up
and felt himself another man.

"Gosh! but it takes mighty few oats to set you up! But come, and let
us have a little plain, substantial fodder. I will drink nothing but
coffee, to-night, out of compliment to you."

Cheered, comforted, and hopeful, Dennis sat down with his good
Samaritan, and made a hearty supper, after which they parted with a
strong friendly grip, and sincere good wishes, Cronk, the drover, going
on further west, and Dennis to the rest he so sorely needed.



CHAPTER VIII

YAHCOB BUNK


Before retiring, Dennis as usual took his Bible from his trunk to read
a chapter. He was now in a very different mood from that of a few hours
ago. The suggestion of his bar-room acquaintance was a light upon his
way. And with one of Dennis's age and temperament, even a small hope
is potent. He was eager for the coming day, in order to try the
experiment of wringing bread and opportunity for further search out
of the wintry snows.

But that which had done him the most good--more than he realized--was
the kindness he had received, rough though it was--the sympathy and
companionship of another human being; for if he had been cast away on
a desert island he could not have been more isolated than in the great
city, with its indifferent multitudes.

Moreover the generous supper was not without its decided influence;
and with it he had drunk a cup of good coffee, that nectar of the gods,
whose subtile, delicate influence is felt in body and brain, in every
fibre of the nature not deadened and blunted by stronger and coarser
stimulants. He who leaves out physical causes in accounting for mental
and moral states, will usually come wide of the mark. But while giving
the influences above referred to their due force, so far from ignoring,
we would acknowledge with emphasis, the chief cause of man's ability
to receive and appreciate all the highest phases of truth and good,
namely, God's help asked for and given. Prayer was a habit with Dennis.
He asked God with childlike faith for the bestowment of every Christian
grace, and those who knew him best saw that he had no reason to
complain that his prayers were unanswered.

But now, at a time when he would most appreciate it, God was about to
reveal to him a truth that would be a rich source of help and comfort
through life, and a sudden burst of sunshine upon his dark way at the
present hour. He was to be shown how he might look to heaven for help
and guidance in respect to his present and earthly interests, as truly
as in his spiritual life.

As he opened his Bible his eyes caught the words of our Lord--"Launch
out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught."

Then Peter's answer--"Master, we have toiled all the night and have
taken nothing: nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net."

The result--"They inclosed a great multitude of fishes."

With these words light broke in upon his mind. "If our Lord," he mused,
"helped His first disciples catch fish, why should He not help me find
a good place?" Then unbelief suggested, "It was not for the sake of
the fish; they were only means to a higher end."

But Dennis, who had plenty of good common-sense, at once answered
this objection: "Neither do I want position and money for low, selfish
purposes. My ends are the best and purest, for I am seeking my own
honest living and the support of my mother and sisters--the very
imperative duties that God is now imposing on me. Would God reveal a
duty and no way of performing it?"

Then came the thought: "Have I asked Him to help me? Have I not been
seeking in my own wisdom, and trusting in my own strength? and this
too when my ignorance of business, the dull season of the year, and
everything was against me, when I specially needed help. Little wonder
that I have fared as I have."

Turning the leaves of his Bible rapidly, he began searching for
instances of God's interference in behalf of the temporal interests
of His servants--for passages where earthly prosperity was promised
or given. After an hour he closed the Bible with a long breath of
wonder, and said to himself "Why, God seems to care as much for the
well-being and happiness of his children here as He will when He has
us all about Him in the home above. I've been blind for twenty-one
years to one of the grandest truths of this Book."

Then, as the thought grew upon him, he exclaimed, joyously, "Take
heart, Dennis Fleet: God is on your side in the struggle for an honest
success in this life as truly as in your fight against sin and the
devil."

It was long before he slept that night, but a truth had been revealed
that rested and strengthened him more than the heavy slumbers after
the weary days that had preceded.

The dawn of the winter morning was cold and faint when Dennis appeared
in the bar-room the next day. The jolly-faced Teuton was making the
fire, stopping often to blow his cold fingers, and wasting enough good
breath to have kindled a furnace. His rubicund visage, surrounded by
shaggy hair and beard of yellow, here appeared in the dust and smoke
he was making like the sun rising in a fog.

"Hillo!" he said, on seeing Dennis; "vat you oop dis early for? Don't
vant anoder dinner yet, I hope?"

"I will take that in good time," said Dennis; "and shall want a bigger
one than that which so astonished you at first."

"Oh, my eyes!" said the German; "den I go and tell de cook to pegin to
get him right avay."

Laughing good-naturedly, Dennis went to the door and looked out.  On
sidewalk and street the snow lay six or eight inches deep, untrodden,
white and spotless, even in the heart of the great city.  "How different
this snow will look by night," thought he; "how soiled and black!
Perhaps very many come to this city in the morning of life like this
snow, pure and unstained; but after being here awhile they become like
this snow when it has been tossed about and trodden under every careless
foot. God grant that, however poor and unsuccessful I may remain, such
pollution may never be my fate."

But feeling that he had no time for moralizing if he would secure bread
for the coming day of rest, he turned and said to the factotum of the
bar-room, "How much will you give to have the snow cleared off the
sidewalk in front of your house?"

"Zwei shillen."

"Then I will earn my breakfast before I eat it, if you will lend me
a shovel."

"I dought you vas a shentlemans," said the German, staring at him.

"So I am; just the shentlemans that will clean off your sidewalk for
zwei shillen, if you will let him."

"You vant to do him for exercise?"

"No; for zwei shillings."

"I dought you vas a shentlemans," said the man, still staring in stolid
wonder at Dennis.

"Didn't you ever know of a gentleman who came from Germany to this
country and was glad to do anything for an honest living?"

"Often and often I haf. You see von here," said the man, with a grin.
"Well, I am just that kind of a gentleman. Now if you will lend me a
shovel I will clean off your sidewalk for two shillings, and be a great
deal more thankful than if you had given me the money for nothing."
"Little fear of dot," said the man, with another grin. "Vel, you are
der queerest Yankee in Chicago, you are; I dink you are 'bout haf
Sherman. I tells you vat--here, vat's your name?--if you glean off dot
sidewalk goot, you shall haf preakfast and dinner, much as you eat,
vidout von shent to pay. I don't care if der cook is cooking all day.
I like your--vat you call him?--shpunk."

"It's a bargain," said Dennis; "and if I can make a few more like it
to-day, I shall be rich."

"You may vel say dot. I vill go into der market and see if dere's
enough for me to keep my bart of der bargain goot."

For half an hour Dennis worked away lustily, and then called his
task-master and said, "Will you accept the job?"

Surveying with surprise the large space cleared, and looking in vain
for reason to find fault, he said: "I say nothin' agin him. I hope you
vill eat your dinner as quick. Now come in to your preakfast."

He pretended to be perfectly aghast at Dennis's onslaught on the
buckwheat cakes, and rolled up his eyes despairingly as each new plate
was emptied.

Having finished, Dennis gave him a nod, and said, "Wait till
dinner-time."

"Ah! dere vill be von famine," said the German, in a tone of anguish,
wringing his hands.

Having procured the needful implement, Dennis started out, and, though
there was considerable competition, found plenty to do, and shovelled
away with little cessation till one o'clock. Then, counting his gains,
he found that he had paid for his shovel, secured breakfast and dinner,
and had a balance on hand of two dollars and fifty cents, and he had
nearly half a day yet before him. He felt rich--nay, more than that,
he felt like a man who, sinking in a shoreless ocean, suddenly catches
a plank that bears him up until land appears in the distance.

"This is what comes of asking God to help a fellow," said he to himself.
"Strange, too, that He should answer my prayer in part before I asked,
by causing that queer jumble of good and evil, Bill Cronk, to suggest
to me this way of turning an honest penny. I wish Bill was as good a
friend to himself as he is to others. I fear that he will go to the
dogs. Bless me! the gnawings of hunger are bad enough, but what must
be those of conscience? I think I can astonish my German friend to-day
as never before;" and, shouldering his shovel, he walked back to dinner,
feeling like a prince bearing aloft the insignia of his power.

When he entered the bar and lunch room, he saw that something was
wrong. The landlord met him, instead of his jolly, satirical friend.

Now the owner of the place was a wizen-faced, dried-up old anatomy,
who seemed utterly exhaling away in tobacco smoke, while his assistant
was becoming spherical under the expansive power of lager. It was his
custom to sit up and smoke most of the night, and therefore he was
down late in the morning. When he appeared his assistant told him of
the bargain he had made with Dennis as a good joke. But old Hans hadn't
any faculty for jokes. Dollars and cents and his big meerschaum made
up the two elements of his life. The thought of losing zwei shillings
or zwei cents by Dennis, or any one else, caused him anguish, and
instead of laughing, his fun-loving assistant was aghast at seeing him
fall into a passion.

"You be von big fule. Vat for we keep mens here who haf no money? You
should gleared him off, instead of making pargains for him to eat us
out of der house."

"We haf his trunk," said Jacob, for that was his name.

"Nothin' in it," growled Hans, yet somewhat mollified by this fact.
When Dennis appeared, he put the case without any circumlocution: "I
makes my livin' by keepin' dis house. I can no make my livin' unless
efrypodies bays me. I haf reason to dink dot you haf no moneys. Vat
ish de druf? 'Gause if you haf none, you can no longer stay here."

"Have I not paid for everything I have had so far?" said Dennis.

"Dot is not der question. Haf you got any moneys?"

"What is your bill in advance up to Monday morning?"

"Zwei dollar and a quarter, if you dake preakfast."
"Deduct breakfast and dinner to-day for clearing off the sidewalk."

"Dot ish too much; you did it in half-hour."

"Well, it would have taken you three. But a bargain is a bargain, the
world over. Did not you promise it?"--to Jacob.

"Yah! und you shall haf him, too, if I be der loser. Yahcob Bunk ish
not der man to go pack on his vort."

"Vel, den," said old Hans, "von dollar sheventy-five to Monday morning."

"There's the money; now let me have my dinner, for I am in a hurry."

At the sight of money Hans at once became the most obsequious of hosts,
and so would remain while it lasted. But Dennis saw that the moment
it was gone his purchased courtesy would change, and he trembled at
his narrow escape from being thrust out into the wintry streets,
friendless, penniless, to beg or starve--equally hard alternatives to
his mind.

"Come, Yahcob, thou snail, give der shentlemans his dinner," said Hans.

Jacob, who had been looking on with heavy, stolid face, now brightened
up on seeing that all was right, and gave Dennis a double portion of
the steaming pot-pie, and a huge mug of coffee. When Dennis had finished
these and crowned his repast with a big dumpling, Jacob came to him
with a face as long and serious as his harvest moon of a visage could
be made, and said: "Dere ish nodding more in Chicago; you haf gleaned
it out. Ve must vait dill der evenin' drain gomes pefore ve haf supper."

"That will be time enough for me," said Dennis, laughing--for he could
laugh to-day at little things--and started off again with his shovel.



CHAPTER IX

LAND AT LAST


During the latter part of a busy afternoon, Dennis came to a spacious,
elegant store before which the snow lay untouched save as trodden by
passers-by. Over the high arched doorway was the legend in gilt letters,
"Art Building"; and as far as a mere warehouse for beautiful things
could deserve the title, this place did, for it was crowded with
engravings, paintings, bronzes, statuary, and every variety of ornament.
With delighted eyes and lingering steps he had passed slowly through
this store a few days previous in his search, but had received the
usual cool negative. He had gone reluctantly out into the cold street
again as Adam went out of Paradise.

A large florid-looking man with a light curling mustache now stood in
the doorway. His appearance was unmistakably that of a German of the
highest and most cultivated type. And yet, when he spoke, his English
was so good that you detected only a foreign accent. Strong vexation
was stamped upon his face as he looked at the snowy, untidy sidewalk.

"Mr. Schwartz," he asked of one of his clerks, "was Pat here this
morning?"

"Yes, sir."

"Was he perfectly straight?"

"I cannot say that he was, sir."

"He is off on a spree again. Send him to me the moment he returns."

"Shall I clear your sidewalk?" said Dennis, stepping up and touching
his hat respectfully.

"Yes," said the gentleman, scarcely looking at him; "and when you have
finished come to the office for your money;" and then he walked back
into the store with a frowning brow.

Though Dennis was now pretty thoroughly fatigued with the hard day's
work, he entered on this task with a good will as the closing labor
of the day, hoping, from the wide space to be cleared, to receive
proportionate recompense. And yet his despatch was not so great as
usual, for in spite of himself his eyes were continually wandering to
the large show-windows, from which smiled down upon him summer
landscapes, and lovely faces that seemed all the more beautiful in
contrast with the bleak and darkening street.

He was rudely startled from one of his stolen glances at a sweet,
girlish face that seemed peering archly at him from a corner. His ears
were assailed by the loud tones and strong brogue of "Pat," returning
thus late to his neglected duties.

"Bad luck to yez! what yez doin' here?"

"Clearing the sidewalk," said Dennis, laconically.

"Give me that shovel, or I'll knock bloody blazes out of yez."

Dennis at once stood on the defensive, and raised his tool
threateningly. At the same time seeing a policeman, he called out,
"Will you please cause this drunken fellow to move on?"

The officer was about to comply, when the Irishman, with a snort like
that of a mad bull, rushed to the door of the art building, wrenched
it open, and, leaving it so, tore down the long store, crying, "Misther
Ludolph! Misther Ludolph! here's a bloody spalpane a-doin' my work."

He had scarcely got half-way to the office before there was a crash
followed by a general commotion.

Pat, in his blind rage, and with steps uncertain from the effects of
whiskey, had struck a valuable marble, and it lay broken on the floor.
This catastrophe sobered him, and he stood looking in dismay at the
destruction he had wrought. His employer, the gentleman whom Dennis
had seen at the door, now appeared upon the scene in a towering passion,
and scrupled not to heap maledictions upon the head of the unfortunate
Hibernian.

"What do you mean by rushing through the store in this mad style?" he
demanded.

"There's an impudent fellow outside a-doin' my work," said Pat.

"Why didn't you do it yourself, instead of going off to the gin-mills
this morning? Didn't I warn you? Didn't I tell you your last spree
should be the last in my employ? Now begone, you drunken idiot! and
if you ever show your face on these premises again I'll have you
arrested and compel payment for this marble, and it will take every
cent you have in the world, and more too."

"Ah! Misther Ludolph, if ye'll only give me one more--"

"I tell you be off! or I will call the policeman at once."

"But Bridget and the childer will starve."

"What are Bridget and the children to me? If you won't take care of
them, you can't expect other people to. Begone!" said his employer,
advancing threateningly and stamping his foot.

Pat looked around in vain for help: the clerks were but fainter echoes
of their master.

Seeing his case to be hopeless, he turned about then hurried away, his
big red face distorted by many contending emotions. Nor did he stop
until he reached one of the fatal "gin-mills," where he soon drowned
memory and trouble in huge potations of the fiery element that was
destroying him and bringing wretchedness to "Bridget and the childer."

Again Dennis had a lesson on drinking for the effects.

He rapidly completed his work and entered the store. A clerk handed
him fifty cents.

"May I see Mr. Ludolph a moment?" he asked.

"Yes," replied the clerk, "he is in the inner office there; but I guess
you won't find him very smooth this evening," looking at the same time
suggestively toward the broken marble.

But Mr. Ludolph was not in as bad a humor as was imagined. This thrifty
Teuton had not lost much by the mishap of the afternoon, for a month
or two of wages was due Pat, and this kept back would pay in the main
for the injury he had done. His whole soul being bent on the acquirement
of money, for reasons that will be explained further on, his momentary
passion soon passed away when he found he had sustained no material
injury. To Dennis's knock he responded in his usual tone, "Come in!"
and Dennis stood in a warm, lighted, cosey office, where the object
of his quest sat writing rapidly with his back to the door. Dennis
waited respectfully till the facile pen glided through the sentence,
and then Mr. Ludolph looked up. Dennis's bearing and appearance were
so unmistakably those of a gentleman that Mr. Ludolph, not
recognizing him as the person who had cleared his sidewalk, rose
courteously and said, "Did you wish to see me?"

"Yes, sir," replied Dennis; "I understand that you dismissed a person
in your employ this afternoon. I would respectfully apply for his
place, if it is not promised."

The gentleman smiled and said: "You are mistaken, I think. I discharged
a drunken Irishman, who had been porter and man-of-all-work about the
store, this afternoon; but I have no place vacant, young sir, that you
would care to fill."

"If you think me competent to fill the position of porter and your
man-of-all-work, I would be very glad to obtain it; that is, if it
will support me and those dependent on me."

The merchant muttered to himself, "I thought he was a gentleman."

Then, as this was a business matter of some importance, he caused
Dennis to stand full in the light, while he withdrew somewhat in the
shadow, and gave it his attention with characteristic shrewdness and
caution.

"You seem rather above the situation you ask for," he said.

"I am not above it in circumstances," said Dennis, "and it certainly
is better than shovelling snow all day."

"Are you the man that just cleaned my sidewalk?"

"I am, sir."

"You must be aware that your general appearance is very different from
that of the man discharged to-day, and from those seeking the menial
place in question. Can you explain this fact satisfactorily?"

"I can readily explain it, and I hope satisfactorily. At any rate I
shall be perfectly open;" and Dennis told him briefly, but plainly,
just how he was situated.

As the keen man of the world watched with the closest scrutiny the
honest young face, he believed every word. Accustomed to deal with all
classes of men from childhood, he had learned to read them as the open
page of a book.

He asked coolly, however, "Have you no recommendations?"

Dennis produced the ministerial letter, which Mr. Ludolph glanced at
with good-natured contempt.

"This is all right," he said; "superstition is an excellent thing for
some minds. I managed Pat a year through his priest, and then he got
beyond the priest and me too."

This undisguised contempt of all that he held sacred, and the classing
of true faith with gross superstition, pained Dennis; and his face
showed it, though he said nothing.

"There," said the gentleman, "I did not mean to hurt your feelings,
but to the educated in our land these things seem very childish."

"I should serve you none the worse," said Dennis, with quiet dignity,
"if I believed that the duty I owed to you I owed also to God."

Mr. Ludolph looked as if a new idea had struck him, smiled, and said:
"Most people's religion, as far as my experience has gone, is not of
this practical kind. But I believe that I can trust you, and your face
and story are worth much more to me than this letter. A scamp might
possess that as well as an honest youth like you. Now, as to terms:
I will give you forty dollars a month for the first two months, and
then, if you develop and take well to the work, I will give you sixty."

Dennis thought that this, with close economy, would enable him to live
and support his mother and sisters, and he accepted the terms.

"Moreover, to show the advantage of telling a straightforward story,
you may sleep in the store: the building will be safer for having some
one in it. I will pay you at the end of every week as long as you suit,
so that you can commence sending something to your mother immediately.
You see that I take an interest in you," said the shrewd man, "and
expect you to take an interest in my business, and work for me as for
yourself."

Simple, honest Dennis could not see that Mr. Ludolph cared infinitely
more for himself than for all the world combined, and made it his
life-study to get the most out of it with the least cost to himself.
Under the words that seemed so kind and considerate, the young man's
heart swelled with the strong and grateful purpose to spare himself
in no way in the service of such an employer. The wily man saw this,
and smiled to himself over the credulity of mankind.

"Have you enough to last till next Saturday night?" he asked.

"I will make it last," said Dennis, sturdily.

"That is right," said Mr. Ludolph. "Stand on your own feet if you can.
I never give any more help than will barely enable a man to help
himself"--a maxim which had the advantage not only of being sound, but
of according exactly with his disposition.

After a moment's thought, Mr. Ludolph spoke in a tone so sharp, and
a manner so stern, that Dennis was startled.

"Mark me, young man, I wish a plain understanding in one respect: you
take Pat's place, and I expect you to do Pat's work. I wish no trouble
to arise from your being above your business."

"You will have none," said Dennis, quietly and firmly.

"All right, then. Mr. Schwartz will show you about closing up the
store. Be here early Monday morning, and remember that all depends
upon yourself."

In the depths of his grateful heart Dennis felt how much the success
of that day and every day of life depended on God.

Mr. Ludolph put on his coat and gloves and went out with Dennis into
the store.

"Gentlemen," said he to his clerks, "this young man, Dennis Fleet by
name, will take the place of Pat Murphy, discharged to-day. Mr.
Schwartz, will you show him what it is necessary to do to-night? He
will be here on Monday morning at the usual time for opening the store,
and after that will sleep in the building."

The clerks looked at him for a moment, as they might at a new piece
of furniture, or a labor-saving machine, and then coolly finished their
duties, and followed their employer. Mr. Schwartz showed him about
closing the store, taking care of the furnace, etc., and Dennis saw
that his place was no sinecure. Still it was not work, but its lack,
that he dreaded, and his movements were so eager and earnest that a
faint expression of surprise and curiosity tinged the broad, stolid
face of Mr. Schwartz; but he only buttoned his coat to the chin and
muttered, "New broom," and went his way homeward, leaving Dennis to
go his.



CHAPTER X

THE NEW BROOM


The following Sabbath was a bright winter day without, but bright
summer in Dennis's heart. He inquired his way to a neighboring church,
and every word of prayer, praise, and truth fell on a glad, grateful
spirit. Returning, he wrote a long letter to his mother, telling her
all he had passed through, especially dwelling on the truth he had
discovered of God's wish to make this life happy and successful, as
well as the life beyond.

In closing, he wrote: "Here I am, Dennis Fleet, who a few days since
thought the world scarcely large enough for what I meant to do, standing
contentedly and gratefully in Pat Murphy's shoes. I will not conceal
from you, speaking figuratively (the fates forbid that it should be
literally true), that I hope to outgrow them, and arrive at something
better before many months pass. In the meantime I am indeed thankful
for the means of winning honest bread for us all. It is quite a
come-down from the classics and law to the position of porter and man
of-all-work in a picture and music store, but if God means me to rise
He can lead me upward from my lowly standpoint as well as from the
most favored that I could have chosen for myself. I have learned that
if I will _trust Him_ and do present duty thoroughly, He will not forget
me."

On Monday morning, half an hour before the specified time, Dennis stood
at the store. Impatiently he walked up and down before what would
become the scene of joys and sorrows such as he had never before
experienced. But we will not anticipate.

In due time Mr. Schwartz appeared. He gave Dennis a cool nod, and said,
"Glad to see you so prompt," then muttered again to himself, "New
broom."

In Mr. Schwartz's slow, plodding soul the fire of enthusiasm had never
burned. He was eminently conservative, and looked with wary suspicion
on anything that appeared like earnestness. In the midst of a driving,
bustling Western city, he stuck in the mud of his German phlegm, like
a snag in the swift current of the Mississippi. Yet Mr. Ludolph found
him a most valuable assistant. He kept things straight. Under his
minute supervision everything had to be right on Saturday night as
well as on Monday morning, on the 31st of December as well as on the
1st of January. He was one who through life would be satisfied with
a subordinate position, conscious of the lack of enterprise needful
to push his own way in the world. His painstaking, methodical spirit
was just the kind to pervade a large warehouse like that he had in
charge, and prevent loss and confusion in the multiplicity of objects
it contained. Pat's careless Irish ways had vexed his soul beyond
words, and now Dennis's eager manner suggested a hare-brained Yankee
youth who would raise a dust for a week and then be off at something
else. He was therefore cool and curt, seeking by frostiness of manner
to nip the budding enthusiasm that annoyed him.

Dennis heeded him not, but bent every faculty to the mastery of the
duties required of him. He was to mop out the store with damp cloths,
so as to raise no dust, to look after the furnace and graduate the
heat throughout the building, to receive boxes, to assist in packing
and unpacking pianos and other musical instruments that occupied part
of the upper floors, and to make himself generally useful. So far from
being an easy position, it was one that required great strength and
despatch, and these had been Pat's qualities save when drink got the
better of him. For one of his age, Dennis was very strong, and his
experience in helping his mother in household duties had made him quick
and dexterous, where most young men would have been awkward and slow.
After a day or two Mr. Schwartz relaxed his grimness somewhat, for if
Dennis worked eagerly he also worked well for a beginner. Still it
would require several years of well-doing to satisfy old Schwartz that
all was right. But Mr. Ludolph, with his quick insight into character,
watched this "new broom" a few days, and then congratulated himself
on gaining another decided help toward the object nearest his heart.

The other clerks were of German descent, and under Mr. Schwartz's rigid
system each one filled his appropriate niche, and performed carefully
the duties assigned.

Even to Dennis's uncultivated eye there was an inartistic formality
about the whole establishment. His sense of this was at first but a
feeling--a vague impression that grew upon him without his quite knowing
why. He soon discovered, however, that everything was arranged squarely,
according to system, order, and not with a view of placing in the best
lights and shadows the beautiful things to be sold. He saw that Mr.
Ludolph was annoyed by the same defect. One bright day, when everything
stood out with glaring distinctness, he seemed provoked beyond measure
by this inartistic rigidity, and stormed through the store at a great
rate.

"This art building and everybody and everything in it look as if they
had swallowed a ramrod," snarled he. "Mr. Schwartz, can't you teach
the young men to throw a little ease and grace into the arrangement
of the articles under their charge?"

Mr. Schwartz looked at him with a blank, impassive face, and his
employer felt that he might as well ask an elephant to teach dancing.

Turning suddenly on a stolid youth, he exclaimed, "By the gods! if you
have not arranged all the statuettes on your counter in straight lines,
and half of them with their backs toward the door at which our customers
enter! Here, gather round me while I give you some ideas of
arrangement."


The clerks gathered around him, while with hands of skill and taste
he placed everything artistically. The effect of a little transposition
was marvellous, and Mr. Schwartz acknowledged that the groups looked
doubly pretty and inviting. Dennis stood at a respectful distance, but
was a close observer. He was the only one who gained much benefit from
the lesson, because the only one capable of receiving it. With quick,
appreciative eye he saw the grouping needful to produce the desired
effect.

As Mr. Ludolph looked up he caught Dennis's intelligent gaze.

"That is right, Fleet," he said; "you learn, too, if you can, and when
you are dusting around see if you cannot combine a little order and
grace."

From that day forward the hand and taste of Dennis Fleet gradually,
and almost imperceptibly at first, gave a new aspect and created a
new atmosphere in the "Art Building." But at first he was kept busy
enough at his humble routine duties. Every one felt and expressed a
little surprise at his getting into harness so quickly, but Mr.
Schwartz's influence was not conducive to conversation or emotions,
however faint. All went forward quietly and orderly, like well-oiled
machinery. Customers received every attention, and though many no doubt
had the undefined feeling that something was wrong in the arrangement
of the store, each found an abundance of beautiful things suited to his
taste and purse, and so trade was good, even though the holiday season
was over.

As for Dennis, he was to a certain extent in Paradise. Nature had given
him a deep, earnest love of the beautiful, and a keen perception of it.

Though his days were busy indeed, he found time gradually to study
every pretty thing in the store. Though much was mystery to him as
yet, he felt that he had crossed the threshold of a beautiful world--the
world of art. When a boy in New England he had taken drawing-lessons,
and had shown remarkable aptness. While at college, also, he had given
some attention to drawing and coloring, but circumstances had prevented
him from following the bent of his taste. Now the passion awoke with
tenfold force, and he had not been in his place a week before he began
to make sketches of little things that pleased him. Some of the pictures
and bronzes became almost dear because of the pleasure and inspiration
that they occasioned, and at their sale his feeling was akin to regret.
Early in the morning, when refreshed and brightened by the night's
rest, he would walk through the store as through fairy-land, and,
forgetting that he was a humble servitor, would feel as if all were
his. But in fact was not his possession truer than that of many whose
palace walls glow with every rich gem of art, and yet whose eyes are
blind and their hearts dull to the beauty they have paid for?

A few days after his arrival, a little incident occurred that was hard
and practical enough, and might justly cause him to feel that he
occupied a humble place, not only in the world of art, but in the world
in general. There had been a day of rain, slush, and mud. One of the
younger clerks had been sent out on an errand, and came in well
splashed. Drawing off his boots, he threw them to Dennis, saying: "Here
you, Fleet! black my boots as quick as you can. I must go out again."

Dennis reddened, and for a moment drew himself up as if he had been
struck. The young man saw it and said, in a loud, coarse tone that
could be heard by several customers: "Vat! you above your biz? I thought
it vould be so."

Dennis acted with decision. He meant to have the matter settled at
once. Picking up the muddy boots, he marched straight into Mr. Ludolph's
office. That gentleman looked up, impatient at interruption, and saw
his man-of-all-work standing before him with the splashed boots dangling
in his hands.

"'Well, what is it?" asked he, sharply.

"Mr. Berder threw me those boots and told me to black them. Is this
a part of my duty here?" said Dennis, in a firm, quiet tone.

"Curse it all!" said Mr. Ludolph, with much irritation; "I thought
there would be trouble with your uppishness."

"There shall be no trouble whatever," said Dennis; "but I prefer to
take my orders from you, and not from Mr. Berder. If you say this is
expected, the disagreeable task shall be done as well as I can do it."

Mr. Ludolph looked sharply at the young man for a moment and hesitated.
In his heart he felt that he was speaking to a gentleman, and that it
was not the thing to ask of him such menial work. But his irritation
and desire to crush out anything like insubordination prevailed. Still,
rather than directly order it, he appealed to the custom of the past,
and stepping to the door of the office he called: "Mr. Schwartz, come
here! Did Pat black the shoes of the _gentlemen_ of this store?"

"Yes, sir."

"You took Pat Murphy's place, did you not?"

"Yes, sir," said Dennis.

"It seems to me, then, that this settles the question," said Mr.
Ludolph, coolly, turning to his writing; but he furtively and carefully
watched Dennis's course.

Determined to show that he was not above his business, that he accepted
the bitter with the sweet, Dennis went upstairs to his room, got
blacking and brush, and taking his station in a corner where Mr. Ludolph
could plainly see him through the glass doors of his office, he polished
away as vigorously as if that were his only calling. Mr. Ludolph looked
and smiled. His was a nature that could be pleased with a small triumph
like this. But the other clerks, seeing Mr. Berder's success, and
determining to do their part, also, in taking Dennis, "down a peg,"
as they expressed it, brought their boots, too, and Mr. Berder came
with his again in the afternoon. Dennis cleaned and polished away in
full view of Mr. Ludolph, who began to realize with vexation that his
man-of-all-work would have little time for the duties of the store if
he were installed general bootblack of the establishment. But, after
this, cold and snow kept the streets dry and clean for some time, and
the matter passed on without further notice. Boots were seldom brought
to him, and when they were, they were cleaned without a word. In the
meantime, his ability and faithfulness in the discharge of his regular
duties, and in some slight degree his taste and judgment, began to be
recognized, and Mr. Ludolph congratulated himself that in giving Dennis
Pat Murphy's place he had made a decided change for the better.



CHAPTER XI

TOO MUCH ALIKE


One of the duties that Dennis enjoyed most was the opening of new
goods. With the curiosity and pleasure of a child he would unpack the
treasures of art consigned to his employer, and when a number of boxes
were left at the front door he was eager to see their contents. During
his first three weeks at the store, there had not been many such
arrivals of goods and pictures. But now new things were coming in; and,
above all, Mr. Ludolph was daily expecting pictures imported
directly from Europe.

One afternoon early in February a large flat box was brought to the
store. Mr. Ludolph examined its marks, smiled, and told Dennis to open
it with great care, cutting every nail with a chisel. There was little
need of cautioning him, for he would have bruised his right hand rather
than mar one line of beauty.

The "Art Building" contained two or three small showrooms, where the
more valuable pictures could be exhibited in a good light. Into one
of these the large box was carried, and most carefully opened. The two
clerks who were helping Dennis laughed at his eager interest, and
called him under their breath a "green 'un." Mr. Schwartz looked upon
him as a mild sort of lunatic. But Mr. Ludolph, who stood near, to see
if the picture was safe and right, watched him with some curiosity.
His manner was certainly very different from Pat Murphy's at such a
time, and his interest both amused and pleased his employer.

When at last the picture was lifted from the box and placed on a large
easel, all exclaimed at its beauty save Dennis. On looking at him,
they saw that his eyes had filled with tears, and his lips were
quivering so that he could not have spoken.

"Is she a relation of yours?" asked Mr. Schwartz, in a matter-of-fact
tone.

A loud laugh followed this sally from such an unusual source. Dennis
turned on his heel, left the room, and busied himself with duties in
a distant part of the store the rest of the day. It seemed to him that
they were like savages bartering away gold and pearls, whose value
they could not understand; much less could they realize his possession
of a nature of exquisite sensibility to beauty.

When all were gone he returned to the room, and sat down before the
picture in rapt attention. It was indeed a fine work of art, finished
in that painstaking manner characteristic of the Germans.

The painting was a winter scene in Germany. In the far background rose
wooded and snow-clad hills. Nearer in the perspective was a bold bluff,
surmounted by a half-ruined castle. At the base of the bluff flowed
a river, now a smooth glare of ice, and in the distance figures were
wheeling about upon skates. In the immediate foreground were two
persons. One was a lovely young girl, dressed in black velvet trimmed
with ermine. The basque fitted closely to her person, revealing its
graceful outlines, and was evidently adapted to the active sport in
which she was engaged. While the rich warm blood mantled her cheeks,
the snow was not whiter than her temples and brow. Down her shoulders
flowed a profusion of wavy hair, scattered threads of which glistened
like gold in the slanting rays of the sun. Her eyes, of a deep violet,
were turned, in sympathy with the scorn of the full, smiling mouth,
upon the figure of a young man kneeling before her, making awkward
attempts to fasten her skate to the trim little foot. It was evident
that the favor was too much for him, and that his fluttering heart
made his hands trembling and unskilful. But the expression of the
maiden's face clearly indicated that her heart was as cold toward him
as the ice on which he kneeled.

The extreme beauty of the picture and its exquisite finish fascinated
Dennis, while the girl's face jarred upon his feelings like a musical
discord. After gazing fixedly for a long time, he said, "What possessed
the man to paint such a lovely face and make its expression only that
of scorn, pride, and heartless merriment?"

All the long night the face haunted and troubled him. He saw it in his
dreams. It had for him a strong interest that he could not
understand--that strange fascination which a very beautiful thing that
has been marred and wronged has for some natures. So powerful was this
impression upon his sensitive nature that he caught himself saying,
as of a living being, "Oh, that I could give to that face the expression
God meant it to have!"

And then he laughed at his own folly. His watchfulness caused him to
oversleep the next morning, and he was later than usual in getting
through the routine duties of the store. At length, about nine o'clock,
dusty and begrimed from mopping, feeding the furnace, etc., he stood
with duster and brush in hand before the painting that had so disturbed
his rest. He was in his shirt-sleeves, and in careful economy had a
large coarse apron of ticking girded about his person. His black,
dishevelled locks looked like an inverted crow's nest, and altogether
he was unpresentable, appearing more like the presiding divinity of
a dust-heap than of an "Art Building."

After gazing a few moments on the scornful, beautiful face that might
have obtained its haughty patrician lineaments from the old barons of
the ruined castle just above, he seemed to grow conscious of this
himself, and shrunk behind the picture half ashamed, as if the fair
girl could see him.

While engaged in cleaning off some stains and marks upon the frame,
he did not hear a light footstep in the room. Finishing his task, he
stepped out from behind the picture with the purpose of leaving the
apartment, when a vision met his gaze which startled him to that degree
that he dropped his brush and duster upon the floor, and stood
transfixed. There before him, in flesh and blood it seemed, stood the
lady of the picture--the same dress, the same beautiful blond face,
and, above all, the same expression. He was made conscious of his
absurd position by a suppressed titter from the clerks at the door,
and a broad laugh from Mr. Ludolph. The beautiful face turned toward
him for a moment, and he felt himself looked over from head to foot.
At first there was an expression of vexation at the interruption, and
then, as if from the ludicrousness of his appearance, the old laughing,
scornful look returned. Casting a quick, furtive glance at the picture,
which seemed to satisfy him, Dennis, with hot cheeks, gathered up his
tools and beat a hasty retreat. As he passed out, Mr. Ludolph asked,
good naturedly, "Why, Fleet, what is the matter?"

"Indeed, sir, I hardly know," answered the bewildered youth, "but it
seems to me that I have lost my wits since that picture came. For a
moment I thought that the lady on the canvas had stepped out upon the
floor."

"Now that you speak of it," exclaimed Mr. Ludolph, advancing into the
room, "there is a striking resemblance."


"Nonsense! father," Dennis heard the young lady say; "you are too old
to flatter. As for that hare-brained youth of the dust-brush, he looked
as if he might have the failing of poor Pat, and not always be able
to see straight."

At this Dennis's cheeks grew hotter still, while a low laugh from one
or two of the clerks near showed that they were enjoying his
embarrassment.

Dennis hastened away to his room, and it was well that he did not hear
the conversation that followed.

"Oh, no!" responded Mr. Ludolph, "that is not Dennis's failing. He is
a member of a church in 'good and regular standing.' He will be one
of the 'pillars' by and by."

"You are always having a fling at superstition and the superstitious,"
said his daughter, laughingly. "Is that the reason you installed him
in Pat's place?"

"Can you doubt it, my dear?" replied her father, in mock solemnity.

"Well," said she, "I think your new factotum fails decidedly in good
manners, if nothing else. He stared most impudently at me when he came
out from behind the picture. I should have reprimanded him myself if
I had not been so full of laughter at his ridiculous appearance."

"That's the joke of it. It was as good as a play to see him. I never
saw a man more startled and confused. He evidently thought for a moment,
as he said, that the girl in the painting had stepped out upon the
floor, and that you were she."

"How absurd!" exclaimed his daughter.

"Yes; and now that I think of it, he glanced from you to the picture,
to satisfy himself that his senses were not deceiving him, before he
started to come away."

"I cannot see any special resemblance," she replied, at the same time
inwardly pleased that she should be thought like the beautiful creature
on the canvas.

"But there is a strong resemblance," persisted her father, "especially
in general effect. I will prove it to you. There is old Schwartz; he
is not troubled with imagination, but sees things just as they are.
He would look at you, my dainty daughter, as if you were a bale of
wool, and judge as composedly and accurately."

"I fear, my father," replied she, smilingly, "that you have conspired
with him to pull the entire bale over my eyes. But let him come."

By this time Dennis had returned, and commenced dusting some pictures
near the entrance, where he could see and hear. He felt impelled by
a curiosity that he could not resist. Moreover he had a little natural
vanity in wishing to show that he was not such a guy, after all. It
was hard for him to remember that he stood in Pat Murphy's position.
What difference did it make to the lady whether such as he was a fright
or not?

Mr. Schwartz entered, and at Mr. Ludolph's bidding looked at the living
and the painted girl. In his slow, sententious tones, one could not
help feeling that he was telling just how things appeared to him. The
young lady stood beside the painting and unconsciously assumed the
expression of her fair shadow. Indeed it seemed an expression but too
habitual to her face.

"Yes," he said, "there is a decided resemblance--close in dress--close
in complexion--color of hair much the same--eyes much alike--Miss
Ludolph not quite so tall," etc. Then with an awkward attempt at a
compliment, like an elephant trying to execute a quickstep, he
continued:

"If I may be permitted to be so bold as to speak--express an opinion--I
should beg leave to say that Miss Ludolph favors herself--more
favored--is better-looking," he blurted out at last, backing out of
the door at the same time, with his brow bathed in perspiration from
the throes of this great and unwonted effort at gallantry.

"Bah!" said Dennis to himself, "the old mole left out the very chief
thing in tracing the likeness--the expression! See her now as she
listens to his awkward attempt at compliment. She is looking at him
with the same scornful, laughing face that the girl in the picture
wears toward the bungling admirer at her feet. He is right in one thing
though, she is better-looking."

But the moment Mr. Schwartz's bulky figure vanished from the doorway,
Miss Ludolph caught the critical, intelligent gaze of Dennis Fleet,
and the expression of her face changed instantly to a frown. But, to
do her justice, it was more in vexation with herself than with him.
Her innate delicacy of feeling showed her that it looked like small
vanity to be standing there while comparisons like the above were
instituted. Her manner at once became cold, observant, and thoroughly
self-possessed. She stepped out into the store, and by a few keen,
critical glances seemed to take in its whole effect. Again
disapprobation clouded her fair brow, and she pronounced audibly but
one word--"Stiff."

Then she passed into her father's private office.



CHAPTER XII

BLUE BLOOD


Dennis's mind was a chaos of conflicting feelings. The picture had
deeply interested him, and so did the beautiful girl that it by strange
coincidence so strongly resembled. It could not be otherwise with one
of his beauty-loving nature. And yet the impression made by the face
in the painting--of something wrong, discordant--was felt more
decidedly in respect to the living face.

But before he had time to realize what had just passed the lady and
her father appeared at the door of the office, and he heard the latter
say: "I know you are right, my dear. It's all wrong. The arrangement
of the store is as stiff and methodical as if we were engaged in selling
mathematical instruments. But I have not time to attend to the matter,
and there is not one in the store that has the least idea of artistic
combination, unless it is Fleet. I have noticed some encouraging
symptoms in him."

"What! he of the duster and mop? I fear our case is desperate, then,
if he is our best hope."

Dennis's cheeks were burning again; but, turning his back, he rubbed
away harder than ever at a Greek god that he was polishing. But they
gave him no thought. Speaking with a sudden animation the young lady
said, "Father, I have a great mind to try it myself--that is, if you
are willing."

"But, my daughter, I could not permit you to be engaged in any such
employment before our customers."

"Certainly not! I would come early in the morning, before art-customers
are stirring. I really should enjoy the task greatly, if I had any one
to help me who could in some faint degree comprehend the effects I
wished to produce. The long spring mornings soon to come would be just
the time for it. To what better use could I put my taste and knowledge
of art than in helping you and furthering our plan for life?"

Mr. Ludolph hesitated between his pride and his strong desire to gain
the advantages which the acceptance of this offer would secure. Finally
he said: "We will think about it. I am expecting a great many new and
beautiful things early in the spring, and no doubt it would be well
then to rearrange the store completely, and break up the rigid system
into which we have fallen. In the meantime I appreciate your offer,
and thank you warmly."

Dennis's heart leaped within him at the thought of instruction from
such a teacher, and he longed to offer his services. But he rightly
judged that the proposal would be regarded as an impertinence at that
time. The successor of Pat Murphy was not expected to know anything
of art, or have any appreciation of it. So he bent his head lower, but
gave Jupiter Olympus such a rubbing down as the god had deserved long
ago. In a moment more Miss Ludolph passed him on her way out of the
store, noticing him no more than she did his dust-brush.

Mr. Ludolph was the younger son of a noble but impoverished German
family, and was intensely proud of his patrician blood. His parents,
knowing that he would have to make his own way in the world, had sent
him, while a mere boy, to this country, and placed him in charge of
a distant relative, who was engaged in the picture-trade in New York.
He had here learned to speak English in his youth with the fluency and
accuracy of a native, but had never become Americanized, so much family
pride had he inherited, and $o strongly did he cling to the traditions
of his own land.

He showed great business ability in his chosen calling, especially
displaying remarkable judgment in the selection of works of art. So
unusual was his skill in this direction, that when twenty-one years
old he was sent abroad to purchase pictures. For several years he
travelled through Europe. He became quite cosmopolitan in character,
and for a time enjoyed life abundantly. His very business brought him
in contact with artists and men of culture, while his taste and love
of beauty were daily gratified. He had abundant means, and money could
open many doors of pleasure to one who, like him, was in vigorous
health and untroubled by a conscience. Moreover, he was able to spend
much time in his beloved Germany, and while there the great ambition
of his life entered his heart. His elder brother, who was living
inexclusive pride and narrow economy on the ancient but diminished
ancestral estate, ever received him graciously. This brother had
married, but had not been blessed or cursed with children, for the
German baron, with his limited finances, could never decide in what
light to regard them. Too poor to mingle with his equals, too proud
to stoop to those whom he regarded as inferiors, he had lived much
alone, and grown narrower and more bigoted in his family pride day by
day. Indeed, that he was Baron Ludolph, was the one great fact of his
life. He spent hours in conning over yellow, musty records of the
ancient grandeur of his house, and would gloat over heroic deeds of
ancestors he never thought of imitating. In brief, he was like a small
barnacle on an old and water-logged ship, that once had made many a
gallant and prosperous voyage richly freighted, but now had drifted
into shallow water and was falling to decay. He made a suggestion,
however, to his younger brother, that wakened the ambition of the
latter's stronger nature, and set him about what became his controlling
purpose, his life-work.

"Make a fortune in America," said his brother, "and come back and
restore the ancient wealth and glory of your family."

The seed fell into receptive soil, and from that day the art and
pleasure loving citizen of the world became an earnest man with a
purpose. But as he chose his purpose mainly from selfish motives it
did not become an ennobling one. He now gave double attention to
business and practical economy. He at once formed the project of
starting in business for himself, and of putting the large profits
resulting from his judicious selection of pictures into his own pocket.
He made the most careful arrangements, and secured agencies that he
could trust in the purchase of pictures after he should return to the
United States.

During his stay in Paris, on his way back, an event occurred that had
a most untoward influence on his plans and hopes. He fell desperately
in love with a beautiful French woman. Like himself, she was poor, but
of patrician blood, and was very fascinating. She attracted him by her
extreme beauty and brilliancy. She was very shrewd, and could seem
anything she chose, being a perfect actress in the false, hollow life
of the world. In accordance with Parisian ideas, she wanted a husband
to pay her bills, to be a sort of protector and base of general
operations. Here was a man who promised well, fine-looking, and, if
not rich, capable of making large sums of money.

She insinuated herself into his confidence, and appeared to share his
enthusiasm for the darling project of his life. He felt that, with
such a beautiful and sympathetic woman to spur him on and share his
success, earth would be a Paradise indeed; and she assured him, in
many delicate and bewitching ways, that it would. In brief, he married
her; and then learned, in bitterness, anger, and disgust, that she had
totally deceived him. To his passionate love she returned indifference;
to his desire for economy, unbounded extravagance, contracting debts
which he must pay to avoid disgrace. She showed an utter unwillingness
to leave the gayety of Paris, laughing in his face at his plan of life,
and assuring him that she would never live in so stupid a place as
Germany. His love died hard. He made every appeal to her that affection
prompted. He tried entreaty, tenderness, coldness, anger, but all in
vain. Selfish to the core, loving him not, utterly unscrupulous, she
trod upon his quivering heart as recklessly as upon the stones of the
street. Soon he saw that, in spite of his vigilance, he was in danger
of being betrayed in all respects. Then he grew hard and fierce. The
whole of his strong German nature was aroused. In a tone and manner
that startled and frightened her, he said: "_We_ sail for New York in
three days. Be ready. If you prove unfaithful to me--if you seek to
desert me, I will _kill_ you. I swear it--not by God, for I don't
believe in Him. If He existed, such creatures as you would not. But I
swear it by my family pride and name, which are dearer to me than life,
if you leave a stain upon them you shall _die_. You need not seek to
escape me. I would follow you through the world. I would kill you on the
crowded street--anywhere, even though I died myself the next moment. And
now look well to your steps."

The glitter of his eye was as cold and remorseless as the sheen of
steel. She saw that he meant and would do just what he said.

The woman had one good point--at least, it turned out to be such in
this case. She was a coward naturally, and her bad life made her dread
nothing so much as death. Her former flippant indifference to his
remonstrances now changed into abject fear. He saw her weak side,
learned his power, and from that time forward kept her within bounds
by a judicious system of terrorism.

He took her to New York and commanded her to appear the charming woman
she could if she chose. She obeyed, and rather enjoyed the excitement
and deceit. His friends were delighted with her, but he received their
congratulations with a grim, quiet smile. At times, though, when she
was entertaining them with all grace, beauty, and sweetness, the thought
of what she was seemed only a horrid dream. But he had merely to catch
her eye, with its gleam of fear and hate, to know the truth.

He felt that he could not trust to the continuance of her good behavior,
and was anxious to get away among strangers as soon as possible. He
therefore closed his business relations in New York. Though she had
crippled him greatly by her extravagance, he had been able to bring
out a fair stock of good pictures, and a large number of articles of
virtue, selected with his usual taste. The old firm, finding that
they could not keep him, offered all the goods he wanted on commission.
So
in a few weeks he started for Chicago, the most promising city of the
West, as he believed, and established himself there in a modest way.
Still the chances were even against him, for he had involved himself
heavily, and drawn to the utmost on his credit in starting. If he could
not sell largely the first year, he was a broken man. For months the
balance wavered, and he lived with financial ruin on one side, and
domestic ruin on the other. But, with a heart of ice and nerves of
steel, he kept his hand on the helm.

His beautiful collection, though in an unpretentious store, at last
attracted attention, and after some little time it became _the_ thing in
the fashionable world to go there, and from that time forward his
fortune was made.

When his wife became a mother, there was a faint hope in Mr. Ludolph's
heart that this event might awaken the woman within her, if aught of
the true woman existed. He tried to treat her with more kindness, but
found it would not answer. She mistook it for weakness on his part.
From first to last she acted in the most heartless manner, and treated
the child with shameless neglect. This banished from her husband even
the shadow of regard, and he cursed her to her face. Thenceforth will
and ambition controlled his life and hers, and with an iron hand he
held her in check. She saw that she was in the power of a desperate
man, who would sacrifice her in a moment if she thwarted him.
Through cowardly fear she remained his reluctant but abject slave,
pricking him with the pins and needles of petty annoyances, when she
would have pierced him to the heart had she dared. This monstrous state
of affairs could not last forever, and, had not death terminated the
unnatural relation, some terrible catastrophe would no doubt have
occurred. Having contracted a western fever, she soon became delirious,
and passed away in this unconscious state, to the intense joy and
relief of her husband.

But the child lived, thrived, and developed into the graceful girl
whose beauty surpassed, as we have seen, even the painter's ideal. Her
father at first cared little for the infant, but secured it every
attention. As it developed into a pretty girl, however, with winning
ways, and rich promise, he gradually associated her with his hopes and
plans, till at last she became an essential part of his ambition.

His plan now was briefly this: He would entangle himself with no
alliances or intimate associations in America, nor would he permit his
daughter to do so. His only object in staying here was the accumulation
of a large fortune, and to this for a few years he would bend every
energy of mind and body. As soon as he felt that he had sufficient means
to live in such style as befitted the ancient and honorable name
of his family, he would return to Germany, buy all he could of the
ancestral estate that from time to time had been parted with, and
restore his house to its former grandeur. He himself would then seek
a marriage connection that would strengthen his social position, while
his daughter also should make a brilliant alliance with some member
of the nobility. Mr. Ludolph was a handsome, well-preserved man; he
had been most successful in business, and was now more rapidly than
ever accumulating that which is truly a power with Europeans of blue
blood, as with democratic Americans. Moreover, his daughter's beauty
promised to be such that, when enhanced by every worldly advantage,
it might well command attention in the highest circles. He sought with
scrupulous care to give her just the education that would enable her
to shine as a star among the high-born. Art, music, and knowledge of
literature, especially the German, were the main things to which her
attention was directed, and in her father, with his richly stored mind,
faultless taste, and cultured voice, she had an instructor such as
rarely falls to the lot of the most favored.

When Christine Ludolph was about sixteen years of age, events occurred
which might have greatly marred her father's plans. She secretly formed
a most unfortunate attachment, which came near resulting in a
clandestine marriage. Although the world would have judged her harshly,
and the marriage could only have been exceedingly disastrous to her
future life, the motherless girl was not very much to blame. Even among
the mature there is a proverbial blindness in these matters. She was
immature, misled by her imagination, and the victim of uncurbed romantic
fancies. But, after all, the chief incentive to her folly was a natural
craving for the love and sympathy which she had never found in her own
home. To her chilled young heart these gifts were so sweet and
satisfying that she was in no mood to criticise the donor, even had
her knowledge of the world enabled her to do so. Thus far, in his care
of Christine, Mr. Ludolph had conformed to the foreign ideas of
seclusion and repression, and the poor girl, unguided, unguarded by
kind womanly counsel, was utterly unsophisticated, and she might have
easily become the prey of the unscrupulous man whose chief incentive
had been her father's wealth. Mr. Ludolph fortunately discovered the
state of affairs in time to prevent gossip. Under his remorseless
logic, bitter satire, and ridicule her young dream was torn to shreds.
The man whom she had surrounded with a halo of romance was shown to
be worthless and commonplace. Her idol had chiefly been a creature of
the imagination, and when the bald, repulsive truth concerning him had
been proved to her in such a way that she could not escape conviction,
she was equally disgusted with him and herself.

For some weeks Mr. Ludolph treated his daughter with cold distrust.
"She will be like her mother, I suppose," he thought. "Already she has
begun to deceive me and to imperil everything by her folly;" and his
heart was full of bitterness toward his child. Thus the poor girl dwelt
in a chilled and blighting atmosphere at a time when she most sorely
needed kindness and wise guidance.

She was very unhappy, for she saw that her father had lost all
confidence in her. She fairly turned sick when she thought of the past.
She had lived in the world of romance and mystery; she had loved with
all her girlish power; and, however wrongly and unjustly, by the
inevitable laws of association she connected the words "love" and
"romance" with one whom she now detested and loathed. Within a week
after her miserable experience she became as utter a sceptic in regard
to human love, and happiness flowing from it, as her father had taught
her to be respecting God and the joy of believing. Though seemingly
a fair young girl, her father had made her worse than a pagan. She
believed in nothing save art and her father's wisdom. He seemed to
embody the culture and worldly philosophy that now became, in her
judgment, the only things worth living for. To gain his confidence
became her great desire. But this had received a severe shock. Mr.
Ludolph had lost all faith in everything save money and his own will.
Religion was to him a gross superstition, and woman's virtue and truth,
poetic fictions.

He watched Christine narrowly, and said just enough to draw out the
workings of her mind. He then decided to tell his plan for life, and
give her strong additional motives for doing his will. The picture he
portrayed of the future dazzled her proud, ambitious spirit, and opened
to her fancy what then seemed the only path to happiness. She entered
into his projects with honest enthusiasm, and bound herself by the
most solemn promises to aid in carrying them out. But in bitterness
he remembered one who had promised with seeming enthusiasm before, and
he distrusted his daughter, watching her with lynx-eyed vigilance.

But gradually he began to believe in her somewhat, as he saw her looking
forward with increasing eagerness to the heaven of German fashionable
life, wherein she, rich, admired, allied by marriage to some powerful
noble family, should shine a queen in the world of art.

"I have joined her aspirations to mine," he said, in self-gratulation.
"I have blended our ambitions and sources of hope and enjoyment, and
that is better than all her promises."

When Dennis saw first the face that was so beautiful and yet so marred
by pride and selfishness, Christine was about nineteen years old, and
yet as mature in some respects as a woman of thirty. She had the perfect
self-possession that familiarity with the best society gives. Mr.
Ludolph was now too shrewd to seek safety in seclusion. He went with
his daughter into the highest circles of the city, and Christine had
crowds of admirers and many offers. All this she enjoyed, but took it
coolly as her right, with the air of a Greek goddess accepting the
incense that rose in her temple. She was too proud and refined to flirt
in the ordinary sense of the word, and no one could complain that she
gave much encouragement. But this state of things was all the more
stimulating, and each one believed, with confidence in his peculiar
attractions, that he might succeed where all others had failed. Miss
Ludolph's admirers were unaware that they had a rival in some as yet
unknown German nobleman. At last it passed into a proverb that the
beautiful and brilliant girl who was so free and courtly in society
was as cold and unsusceptible as one of her father's statues.

Thus it would seem that when circumstances brought the threads of these
two lives near each other, Dennis's and Christine's, the most impassable
barriers rose between them, and that the threads could never be woven
together, or the lives blended. She was the daughter of the wealthy,
aristocratic Mr. Ludolph; he was her father's porter.

Next to the love of art, pride and worldly ambition were her strongest
characteristics. She was an unbeliever in God and religion, not from
conviction, but from training. She knew very little about either, and
what light she had came to her through false mediums. She did not even
believe in that which in many young hearts is religion's shadow, love
and romance, nor did her father take a more worldly and practical view
of life than she.

In marked contrast we have seen the character of Dennis Fleet, drawing
its inspiration from such different sources.

Could two human beings be more widely separated--separated in that
which divides more surely than continents and seas?

Could Dennis have seen her warped, deformed moral nature, as clearly
as her beautiful face and form, he would have shrunk from her; but
while recognizing defects, he shared the common delusion, that the
lovely outward form and face must enshrine much that is noble and ready
to blossom into good, if the right motives can be presented.

As for Christine, she had one chance for life, one chance for heaven.
She was _young_. Her nature had not so hardened and crystallized in evil
as to be beyond new and happier influences.



CHAPTER XIII

VERY COLD


When Dennis entered Mr. Ludolph's store Christine was absent on a visit
to New York. On her return she resumed her old routine. At this time
she and her father were occupying a suite of rooms at a fashionable
hotel. Her school-days were over, Mr. Ludolph preferring to complete
her education himself in accordance with his peculiar views and tastes.
She was just passing into her twentieth year, and looked upon the world
from the vantage points of health, beauty, wealth, accomplishments of
the highest order, and the best social standing. Assurance of a long
and brilliant career possessed her mind, while pride and beauty were
like a coronet upon her brow. She was the world's ideal of a queen.

And yet she was not truly happy. There was ever a vague sense of unrest
and dissatisfaction at heart. She saw that her father was proud and
ambitious in regard to her, but she instinctively felt that he neither
loved nor trusted her to any great extent. She seemed to be living in
a palace of ice, and at times felt that she was turning into ice
herself; but her very humanity and womanhood, deadened and warped
though they were, cried out against the _cold_ of a life without God or
love. In the depths of her soul she felt that something was wrong, but
what, she could not understand. It seemed that she had everything that
heart could wish, and that she ought to be satisfied.

She had at last concluded that her restlessness was the prompting of
a lofty ambition, and that if she chose she could win world-wide
celebrity as an artist. This, with the whole force of her strong nature,
she had determined to do, and for over two years had worked with an
energy akin to enthusiasm. She had resolved that painting should be
the solid structure of her success, and music its ornament.

Nor were her dreams altogether chimerical, for she had remarkable
talent in her chosen field of effort, and had been taught to use the
brush and pencil from childhood. She could imitate with skill and
taste, and express with great accuracy the musical thought of the
composer; but she could not create new effects, and this had already
begun to trouble her. She worked hard and patiently, determined to
succeed. So great had been her application that her father saw the
need of rest and change, and therefore her visit to New York. She had
now returned strengthened, and eager for her former studies, and resumed
them with tenfold zest.

The plan of rearranging the store on artistic principles daily grew
in favor with her. It was just the exercise of taste she delighted in,
and she hoped some day to indulge it on palace walls that would be her
own. Her father's pride caused him to hesitate for some time, but she
said: "Why, Chicago is not our home; we shall soon be thousands of
miles away. You know how little we really care for the opinions of the
people here: it is only our own pride and opinion that we need consult.
I see nothing lowering or unfeminine in the work. I shall scarcely
touch a thing myself, merely direct; for surely among all in your
employ there must be one or two pairs of hands not so utterly awkward
but that they can follow plain instructions. My taste shall do it all.
We are both early risers, and the whole change can be made before the
store is opened. Moreover," she added (with an expression indicating
that she would have little difficulty in ruling her future German
castle, and its lord also), "this is an affair of our own. Those you
employ ought to understand by this time that it is neither wise nor
safe to talk of our business outside."

After a moment's thought she concluded: "I really think that the proper
arrangement of everything in the store as to light, display, and effect,
so that people of taste will be pleased when they enter, would add
thousands of dollars to your sales; and this rigid system of old
Schwartz's, which annoys us both beyond endurance, will be broken up."

Won over by arguments that accorded with his inclinations, Mr. Ludolph
gave his daughter permission to carry out the plan in her own way.

She usually accompanied her father to the store in the morning. He,
after a brief glance around, would go to his private office and attend
to correspondence. She would do whatever her mood prompted. Sometimes
she would sit down for a half-hour before one picture; again she would
examine most critically a statue or a statuette. Whenever new music
was received, she looked it over and carried off such pieces as pleased
her fancy.

She evidently was a privileged character, and no one save her father
exercised the slightest control over her movements. She treated all
the clerks, save old Schwartz, as if they were animated machines; and
by a quiet order, as if she had touched a spring, would set them in
motion to do her bidding. The young men in the store were of German
descent, and rather heavy and undemonstrative. Mr. Schwartz's system
of order and repression had pretty thoroughly quenched them. They were
educated to the niches they filled, and seemed to have no thought
beyond; therefore they were all unruffled at Miss Ludolph's air of
absolute sovereignty. Mr. Schwartz was as obsequious as the rest, but,
as second to her father in power, was permitted some slight familiarity.
In fact this heavy, stolid prime-minister both amused and annoyed her,
and she treated him with the caprice of a child toward an elephant--at
times giving him the sugar-plum of a compliment, and oftener
pricking him with the pin of some caustic remark. To him she was the
perfection of womankind--her reserved, dispassionate manner, her steady,
unwearied prosecution of a purpose, being just the qualities that he
most honored; and he worshipped her reverently at a distance, like an
old astrologer adoring some particularly bright fixed star. No whisking
comets or changing satellites for old Schwartz.

As for Dennis, she treated him as she probably had treated Pat Murphy,
and for several days had no occasion to notice him at all. In fact he
kept out of her way, choosing at first to observe rather than be
observed. She became an artistic study to him, for her every movement
was grace itself, except that there was no softness or gentleness in
her manner. Her face fascinated him by its beauty, though its expression
troubled him--it was so unlike his mother's, so unlike what he felt
a woman's ought to be. But her eager interest in that which was becoming
so dear to him--art--would have covered a multitude of sins in his
eyes, and with a heart abounding in faith and hope, not yet diminished
by hard experience, he believed that the undeveloped angel existed
within her. But he remembered her frown when she had first noticed his
observation of her. The shrewd Yankee youth saw that her pride would
not brook even a curious glance. But while he kept at a most respectful
distance he felt that there was no such wide gulf between them as she
imagined. By birth and education he was as truly entitled to her
acquaintance as the young men who sometimes came into the store with
her and whom she met in society. Position and wealth were alone wanting,
and in spite of his hard experience and lowly work he felt that there
must be some way for him, as for others, to win these.

He longed for the society of ladies, as every right-feeling young man
does, and to one of his nature the grace and beauty of woman
were peculiarly attractive. If, before she came, the lovely faces of the
pictures had filled the place with a sort of witchery, and created
about him an atmosphere in which his artist-soul was awakening into
life and growth, how much more would it be true of this living vision
of beauty that glided in and out every day!

"She does not notice me," he at first said to himself, "any more than
do these lovely shadows upon the canvas. But why need I care? I can
study both them and her, and thus educate my eye, and I hope my hand,
to imitate and perhaps surpass their perfections in time."

But this cool, philosophic mood did not last long. It might answer
very well in regard to the pictures on the walls, but there was a
magnetism about this living, breathing woman that soon caused him to
long for the privilege of being near her and speaking to her of that
subject that interested them both so deeply. Though he had never seen
any of her paintings to know them, he soon saw that she was no novice
in such matters and that she looked at works of art with the eye of
a connoisseur. In revery he had many a spirited conversation with her,
and he trusted that some day his dreams would become real. He had the
romantic hope that if she should discover his taste and strong love
of art she might at first bestow upon him a patronizing interest which
would gradually grow into respect and acknowledged equality.



CHAPTER XIV

SHE SPEAKS TO HIM


After the plan for the re-arrangement of the store had been determined
upon, Miss Ludolph began to study its topography. She went regularly
through the building, examining closely every part and space, sometimes
sketching a few outlines in a little gilt book. Apparently she was
seeking by her taste to make the show-rooms pictures in themselves,
wherein all the parts should blend harmoniously, and create one
beautiful effect. Dennis saw what was coming. The carrying-out of the
plan he had heard discussed, and he wished with intense longing that
he might be her assistant. But she would as soon have thought of sending
for Pat Murphy. She intended to select one of the older clerks to aid
her. Still Dennis hoped that by some strange and happy turn of fortune
part of this work might fall to him.

Every spare moment of early morning and evening he spent in sketching
and studying, but he sadly felt the need of instruction, and of money
to buy materials. He was merely groping his way as best he might; and
he felt that Miss Ludolph could teach him so much, if she would only
condescend to the task! He was willing to be a very humble learner at
first. If in some way he could only make known his readiness to pick
up the crumbs of knowledge that she might be willing out of kindness
to scatter in his path, he might expect something from ordinary good
nature.

But a week or two passed without his receiving so much as a glance
from those cold blue eyes that rested so critically on all before them;
and on an unlucky day in March all hope of help from her vanished.
Under the influence of spring the streets were again becoming muddy,
and his duties as bootblack increased daily. He had arranged to perform
this menial task in a remote corner of the store, as much out of sight
as possible. The duty had become still more disagreeable since the
young lady haunted the place, for he feared she would learn to associate
him only with the dust-brush and blacking-brush.

Just behind where he usually stood, a good picture had been hung, under
Mr. Schwartz's system, simply because it accurately fitted the space.
It was in a wretched light, and could never be seen or appreciated
there. Miss Ludolph in her investigations and plannings discovered
this at a time most unfortunate for poor Dennis. While polishing away
one morning, he suddenly became conscious that she was approaching.
It seemed that she was looking directly at him, and was about to speak.
His heart thumped like a trip-hammer, his cheeks burned, and a blur
came over his eyes, for he was diffident in ladies' presence. Therefore
he stood before her the picture of confusion, with a big boot poised
in one hand, and the polishing-brush in the other. With the instincts
of a gentleman, however, he made an awkward bow, feeling, though, that
under the circumstances his politeness could only appear ridiculous.
And he was right. It was evident from the young lady's face that her
keen perception of the ridiculous was thoroughly aroused. But for the
sake of her own dignity (she cared not a jot for him), she bit her lip
to control her desire to laugh in his face, and said, rather sharply,
"Will you stand out of my way?"

_She had spoken to him._

He was so mortified and confused that in his effort to obey he partially
fell over a bronze sheep, designed to ornament some pastoral scene,
and the heel of Mr. Schwartz's heavy boot came down with a thump that
made everything ring. There was a titter from some of the clerks. Mr.
Ludolph, who was following his daughter, exclaimed, "What's the matter,
Fleet? You seem rather unsteady, this morning, for a church member."

For a moment he had the general appearance usually ascribed to the
sheep, his unlucky stumbling-block. But by a strong effort he recovered
himself. Deigning no reply, he set his teeth, compressed his lips,
picked up the boot, and polished away as before, trying to look and
feel regardless of all the world. In fact there was as much pride in
his face as there had ever been in hers. But, not noticing him, she
said to her father: "Here is a specimen. Look where this picture is
hung. In bootblack corner I should term it. It would not sell here in
a thousand years, for what little light there is would be obscured
much of the time by somebody's big boots and the artist in charge. It
has evidently been placed here in view of one principle
alone--dimensions; its length and breadth according with the space in
the corner. You will see what a change I will bring about in a month
or two, after my plans are matured;" and then she strolled to another
part of the store. But, before leaving, Miss Ludolph happened to glance
at Dennis's face, and was much struck by its expression. Surely Pat
Murphy never would or could look like that. For the first time the
thought entered her mind that Dennis might be of a different clay and
character from Pat. But the next moment his expression of pride and
offended dignity, in such close juxtaposition to the big boot he was
twirling almost savagely around, again appealed to her sense of the
ludicrous, and she turned away with a broad smile. Dennis, looking up,
saw the smile and guessed the cause; and when, a moment after, Mr.
Schwartz appeared, asking in his loud, blunt way, "My boots ready?"
he felt like flinging both at his head, and leaving the store forever.
Handing them to him without a word, he hastened upstairs, for he felt
that he must be alone.

At first his impulse was strong to rebel--to assert that by birth and
education he was a gentleman, and must be treated as such, or he would
go elsewhere. But, as the tumult in his mind calmed, the case became
as clear to him as a sum in addition. He had voluntarily taken Pat
Murphy's place, and why should he complain at Pat's treatment? He had
pledged his word that there should be no trouble from his being above
his business, and he resolved to keep his word till Providence gave
him better work to do. He bathed his hot face in cool water, breathed
a brief prayer for strength and patience, and went back to his tasks
strong and calm.



CHAPTER XV

PROMOTED


Late in the afternoon of the same day (which was Saturday), as Mr.
Ludolph was passing out of the store on his way home, he noticed the
table that he had arranged artistically some little time before as a
lesson to his clerks. Gradually it had fallen back into its old straight
lines and rigid appearance. He seemed greatly annoyed.

"What is the use of re-arranging the store?" he muttered. "They will
have it all back again on the general principle of a ramrod in a little
while. But we have put our hands to this work, and it shall be carried
through, even if I discharge half of these wooden-heads."

Then calling the clerk in charge, he said, "Look here, Mr. Berder, I
grouped the articles on this counter for you once, did I not?"
"Yes, sir."

"Let me find them Monday morning just as I arranged them on that
occasion."

The young man looked as blank and dismayed as if he had been ordered
to swallow them all before Monday morning.

He went to work and jumbled them up as if that were grouping them, and
then asked one or two of the other clerks what they thought of it.
They shook their heads, and said it looked worse than before.

"I vill study over him all day to-morrow, and den vill come early
Monday and fix him;" and the perplexed youth took himself off.

Dennis felt almost sure that he could arrange it as Mr. Ludolph had
done, or with something of the same effect, but did not like to offer
his services, not knowing how they would be received, for Mr. Berder
had taken special delight in snubbing him.

After the duties of the store were over, Dennis wrote to his mother
a warm, bright, filial letter, portraying the scene of the day in its
comic light, making all manner of fun of himself, that he might hide
the fact that he had suffered. But he did not hide it, as a return
letter proved, for it was full of sympathy and indignation that
_her_ son should be so treated, but also full of praise for his
Christian manliness and patience.

"And now, my son," she wrote, "let me tell you of at least two
results of your steady, faithful performance of your present humble
duties. The money you send so regularly is more than sufficient for
our simple wants. We have every comfort, and I am laying something by
for sickness and trouble, for both are pretty sure to come before long
in this world. In the second place, you have given me that which is
far better than money--comfort and strength. I feel more and more that
we can lean upon you as our earthly support, and not find you a 'broken
reed.' While so many sons are breaking their mothers' hearts, you are
filling mine with hope and joy. I am no prophetess, my son, but from
the sure word of God I predict for you much happiness and prosperity
for thus cheering and providing for your widowed mother. Mark my words.
God has tried you and not found you wanting. He will soon give you
better work to do--work more in keeping With your character and
ability."

This prediction was fulfilled before Dennis received the letter
containing it, and it happened on this wise.

Early on Monday morning Mr. Berder appeared and attempted the hopeless
task of grouping the articles on his table in accordance with Mr.
Ludolph's orders. After an hour's work he exclaimed in despair, "I
cannot do him to save my life."

Dennis at a distance, with a half-amused, half-pitying face, had watched
Mr. Berder's wonderful combinations, and when Rip Van Winkle was placed
between two togated Roman senators, and Ichabod Crane arranged as if
making love to a Greek goddess, he came near laughing outright. But
when Mr. Berder spoke he approached and said, kindly and respectfully,
"Will you let me try to help you?"

"Yes," said Mr. Berder; "you cannot make dings vorse."
Acting upon this ungracious permission, Dennis folded his arms and
studied the table for five minutes.

"Come," said Mr. Berder, "standing dere and looking so vise as an owl
von't help matters. Mr. Ludolph vill be here soon."

"I am not losing time," said Dennis; and a moment proved he was not,
for, having formed a general plan of arrangement, he went rapidly to
work, and in a quarter of an hour could challenge Mr. Ludolph or any
other critic to find serious fault.

"There! I could do better if I had more time, but I must go to my
sweeping and dusting, or Mr. Schwartz will be down on me, and he is
pretty heavy, you know. I never saw such a man--he can see a grain of
dust half across the store."

Mr. Berder had looked at Dennis's quick, skilful motions in blank
amazement, and then broke out into an unwonted panegyric for him: "I
say, Vleet, dot's capital! Where you learn him?" Then in a paroxysm
of generosity he added, "Dere's a quarter for you."

"No, I thank you," said Dennis, "I did not do it for money."

"Vat did der fool do it for, den, I'd like to know?" muttered Mr.
Berder, the philosophy of bid life resuming its former control. "Saved
a quarter, anyhow, and, vat's more, know vere to go next dime der old
man comes down on me."

A little after nine Mr. and Miss Ludolph came in, and paused at the
table. Dennis, unnoticed, stood behind Benjamin Franklin and Joan of
Arc, placed lovingly together on another counter, face to face, as if
in mutual admiration, and from his hiding-place watched the scene
before him with intense anxiety. One thought only filled his mind--Would
they approve or condemn his taste? for he had arranged the table on
a plan of his own. His heart gave a glad bound when Mr. Ludolph said:
"Why, Berder, this is excellent. To be sure you have taken your own
method, and followed your own taste, but I find no fault with that,
when you produce an effect like this."

"I declare, father," chimed in Miss Ludolph, "this table pleases me
greatly. It is a little oasis in this great desert of a store. Mr.
Berder, I compliment you on your taste. You shall help me rearrange,
artistically, everything in the building."

Dennis, in his agitation, came near precipitating Benjamin Franklin
into the arms of Joan of Arc, a position scarcely in keeping with
either character.

"Yes, Christine, that is true," continued Mr. Ludolph, "Mr. Berder
will be just the one to help you, and I am glad you have found one
competent. By all the furies! just compare this table with the one
next to it, where the Past, Present, and Future have not the slightest
regard for each other, and satyrs and angels, philosophers and bandits,
are mixed up about as closely as in real life. Here, Berder, try you
hand at this counter also; and you, young men, gather round and see
the difference when _art_, instead of mathematics, rules the world of
art. If this thing goes on, we shall have the golden age back again in
the store."

Mr. Berder, though somewhat confused, had received all his compliments
with bows and smiles. But Dennis, after his thrill of joy at having
pleased Mr. and Miss Ludolph's fastidious taste, felt himself reddening
with honest indignation that Mr. Berder should carry off all his laurels
before his face.  But he resolved to say nothing, knowing that time
would right him.  When Mr. Ludolph asked the young men to step forward,
he came with the others.

"That's right, Fleet," said Mr. Ludolph, again, "you can get a useful
hint, too, like enough."

"Nonsense, father," said Miss Ludolph, in a tone not so low but that
Dennis heard it; "why spoil a good sweeper and duster by putting uppish
notions in his head?  He keeps the store cleaner than any man you ever
had, and I don't soil my dresses as I used to."

Dennis's color heightened a little, and his lips closed more firmly,
but he gave no other sign that he heard this limitation of his hope
and ambition. But it cut him rather deep.  The best he could ever do,
then, in her view, was to keep her dresses from being soiled.

In the meantime Mr. Berder had shown great embarrassment at Mr.
Ludolph's unexpected request.  After a few moments of awkward hesitation
he stammered out that he could do it better alone.  The suspicion of
keen Mr. Ludolph was at once aroused and he persisted: "Oh, come, Mr.
Berder, we don't expect you to do your best in a moment, but a person
of your taste can certainly make a great change for the better in the
table before you."

In sheer desperation the entrapped youth attempted the task, but he
had not bungled five minutes before Mr. Ludolph said, sharply, "Mr.
Berder, you did not arrange this table."

"Vell," whined Mr. Berder, "I didn't say dot I did."

"You caused me to believe that you did," said Mr. Ludolph, his brow
growing dark.  "Now, one question, and I wish the truth:  Who did
arrange this table?"

"Vleet, dere, helped me," gasped Mr. Berder.

"_Helped_ you?  Mr. Fleet, step forward, if you please, for I intend to
have the truth of this matter. How much help did Mr. Berder give you in
arranging this table?"

"None, sir," said Dennis, looking straight into Mr. Ludolph's eyes.

All looked with great surprise at Dennis, especially Miss Ludolph, who
regarded him most curiously. "How different he appears from Pat Murphy!"
she again thought.

"Some one has told a lie, now," said Mr. Ludolph, sternly. "Mr. Fleet,
I shall put you to the same test that Berder failed in. Arrange that
counter sufficiently well to prove that it was your hands that arranged
this."

Dennis stepped forward promptly, but with a pale face and compressed
lips. Feeling that both honor and success were at stake, he grouped
and combined everything as before, as far as the articles would permit,
having no time to originate a new plan. As he worked, the clerks gazed
in open astonishment, Mr. Ludolph looked significantly at his daughter,
while she watched him with something of the same wonder which we have
when one of the lower animals shows human sagacity and skill.

Mr. Ludolph was Napoleonic in other respects than his ambition and
selfishness. He was shrewd enough to "promote on the field for
meritorious services." Therefore, as Dennis's task approached
completion, he said: "That will do, Mr. Fleet, you can finish the work
at your leisure. Mr. Berder, you are discharged from this day for
deception. I would have borne with your incompetency if you had been
truthful. But I never trust any one who has deceived me once," he said,
so sternly that even Christine's cheek paled. "Mr. Schwartz will settle
with you, and let me never see or hear from you again. Mr. Fleet, I
promote you to Mr. Berder's counter and pay."

Thus this man of the world, without a thought of pity, mercy, or kindly
feeling in either case, gave one of his clerks a new impetus toward
the devil, and another an important lift toward better things, and
then went his way, congratulating himself that all things had worked
together for his good, that morning, though where he would find another
Dennis Fleet to fill Pat's place, again vacant, he did not know.

But Miss Ludolph looked at Dennis somewhat kindly, and with a little
honest admiration in her face. He was very different from what she had
as a matter of course supposed him to be, and had just done in a quiet,
manly way a thing most pleasing to her, so she said with a smile that
seemed perfectly heavenly to him, "_You_ are above blacking boots, sir."



CHAPTER XVI

JUST IN TIME


At the close of the day on which Dennis received his promotion, and
his horizon was widened so unexpectedly, Mr. Ludolph, in passing out,
noticed him engaged as usual on one of Pat Murphy's old tasks. He
stopped and spoke kindly, "Well, Fleet, where am I going to find a man
to fill your place made vacant to-day?"

"Would you be willing to listen to a suggestion from me?"

"Certainly."

"If a young boy was employed to black boots, run errands, and attend
to minor matters, I think that by industry I might for a while fill
both positions. In a short time the furnace will require no further
attention. I am a very early riser, and think that by a little good
management I can keep the store in order and still be on hand to attend
to my counter when customers are about."

Mr. Ludolph was much pleased with the proposition, and said, promptly,
"You may try it, Fleet, and I will pay you accordingly. Do you know
of a boy who will answer?"

"I think I do, sir. There is a German lad in my mission class who has
interested me very much. His father is really a superior artist, but
is throwing himself away with drink, and his mother is engaged in an
almost hopeless effort to support the family. They have seen much
better days, and their life seems very hard in contrast with the past."

"Can we trust such a boy? Their very necessities may lead to theft."

"They are not of the thieving sort, sir. I am satisfied that they would
all starve rather than touch a penny that did not belong to them."

"Very well, then, let him come and see me; but I will hold you
responsible for him."

Mr. Ludolph, being in a good humor, was disposed to banter Dennis, so
he added: "Do you find time to be a missionary, also? Are you not in
danger of becoming a 'Jack at all trades'?"

"I am not entitled to the first character, and hope to shun the latter.
I merely teach a dozen boys in a mission school on Sundays."

"When you ought to be taking a good long nap, or a row on the lake for
fresh air and recreation."

"I should be dishonest if I spent my Sabbaths in that way."

"How so?"

"I should give the lie to my profession and belief. I must drop the
name of Christian when I live for myself."


"And if you should drop it, do you think you would be much the loser?"

"Yes, sir," said Dennis, with quiet emphasis.

"You are expecting great reward, in some sort of Paradise, for your
mission work, etc.?"

"Nothing done for God is forgotten or unrewarded."

"Believing that, it seems to me that you are looking after self-interest
as much as the rest of us," said his employer, with a shrewd smile.

Looking straight into Mr. Ludolph's eyes, Dennis said, earnestly:
"Without boasting, I think that I can say that I try to serve you
faithfully. If you could see my heart, I am sure you would find that
gratitude for your kindness is a part of my motive, as well as my
wages. In the same manner, while I do not lose sight of the rich rewards
God promises and daily gives for the little I can do for Him, I am
certain that I can do much out of simple gratitude and love, and ask
no reward."

"Ignorance is certainly bliss in your case, young man. Stick to your
harmless superstition as long as you can."

And he walked away, muttering: "Delusion, delusion! I have not said
a word or done a thing for him in which I had not in view my interests
only, and yet the poor young fool sees in the main disinterested
kindness. Little trouble have the wily priests in imposing on such
victims, and so they get their hard-earned wages and set them
propagating the delusion in mission schools, when mind and body need
change and rest. Suppose there is a Supreme Being in the universe,
what a monstrous absurdity to imagine that He would trouble Himself
to reward this Yankee youth for teaching a dozen ragamuffins in a
tenement-house mission school!"

Thus Mr. Ludolph's soliloquy proved that his own pride and selfishness
had destroyed the faculty by which he could see God. The blind are not
more oblivious to color than he was to those divine qualities which
are designed to win and enchain the heart. A man may sadly mutilate
his own soul.

At a dainty dinner-table Mr. Ludolph and his daughter discussed the
events of the day.

"I am glad," said the latter, "that he is willing to fill Pat's place,
for he keeps everything so clean. A dusty, slovenly store is my
abomination. Then it shows that he has no silly, uppish notions so
common to these Americans." (Though born here, Miss Ludolph never
thought herself other than a German lady of rank.) "But I do not wish
to see him blacking boots again. Yet he is an odd genius. How comical
he looked bowing to me with one of Mr. Schwartz's big boots describing
a graceful curve on a level with his head. Let old Schwartz black his
own boots. He ought to as a punishment for carrying around so much
leather. This Fleet must have seen better days. He is like all Yankees,
however, sharp after the dollar, though he seems more willing to work
for it than most of them."

"I'll wager you a pair of gloves," said her father, "that they get a
good percentage of it down at the mission school. He is just the subject
for a cunning priest, because he sincerely believes in their foolery.
He belongs to a tribe now nearly extinct, I imagine--the martyrs, who
in old-fashioned times died for all sorts of delusions."

"How time mellows and changes everything! There is something heroic
and worthy of art in the ancient martyrdoms, while nothing is more
repulsive than modern fanaticism. It is a shame, though, that this
young man, with mother and sisters to support, should be robbed of his
hard earnings as was Pat Murphy by his priest, and I will try to open
his eyes some day."

"I predict for you no success."

"Why so?--he seems intelligent."

"I have not studied character all my life in vain. He would regard
you, my fair daughter, as the devil in the form of an angel of light
tempting him."

"He had better not be so plain-spoken as yourself."

"Oh, no need of Fleet's speaking; his face is like the page of an open
book."

"Indeed! a face like a sign-board is a most unfortunate one, I should
think."

"Most fortunate for us. I wish I could read every one as I can Fleet."

"You trust no one, I believe, father."

"I believe what I see and know."

"I wish I had your power of seeing and knowing. But how did he get his
artistic knowledge and taste?"

"That I have not inquired into fully, as yet. I think he has an unusual
native aptness for these things, and gains hints and instruction where
others would see nothing. And, as you say, in the better days past he
may have had some advantages."

"Well," said she, caressing the greyhound beside her, "if Wolf here
should go to the piano and execute an opera, I should not be more
astonished than I was this morning."

And then their conversation glided off on other topics.

After dessert, Mr. Ludolph lighted a cigar and sat down to the evening
paper, while his daughter evoked from the piano true after-dinner
music--light, brilliant, mirth-inspiring. Then both adjourned to their
private billiard-room.

The scene of our story now changes from Mr. Ludolph's luxurious
apartments in one of the most fashionable hotels in the city to a
forlorn attic in De Koven Street. It is the scene of a struggle as
desperate, as heroic, against as tremendous odds, as was ever carried
on in the days of the Crusades. But as the foremost figure in this
long, weary conflict was not an armed and panoplied knight, but merely
a poor German woman, only God and the angels took much interest in it.
Still upon this evening she was almost vanquished. She seemed to have
but one vantage-point left on earth. For a wonder, her husband was
comparatively sober, and sat brooding with his head in his hands over
the stove where a fire was slowly dying out. The last coal they had
was fast turning to ashes. From a cradle came a low, wailing cry. It
was that of hunger. On an old chest in a dusky corner sat a boy about
thirteen. Though all else was in shadow, his large eyes shone with
unnatural brightness, and followed his mother's feeble efforts at the
washtub with that expression of premature sadness so pathetic in
childhood. Under a rickety deal table three other and smaller children
were devouring some crusts of bread in a ravenous way, like
half-famished young animals. In a few moments they came out and clamored
for more, addressing--not their father; no intuitive turning to him
for support--but the poor, over-tasked mother. The boy came out of his
corner and tried to draw them off and interest them in something else,
but they were like a pack of hungry little wolves. The boy's face was
almost as sharp and famine-pinched as his mother's, but he seemed to
have lost all thought of himself in his sorrowful regard for her. As
the younger children clamored and dragged upon her, the point of
endurance was passed, and the poor woman gave way. With a despairing
cry she sank upon a chair and covered her face with her apron.

"Oh, mine Gott, Oh, mine Gott," she cried, "I can do not von more
stroke if ve all die."

In a moment her son had his arms around her neck, and said: "Oh, moder,
don't cry, don't cry. Mr. Fleet said God would surely help us in time
of trouble if we would only ask Him."

"I've ask Him, and ask Him, but der help don't come. I can do no more;"
and a tempest of despairing sobs shook her gaunt frame.

The boy seemed to have got past tears, and just fixed his large eyes,
full of reproach and sorrow, on his father.

The man rose and turned his bloodshot eyes slowly around the room. The
whole scene, with its meaning, seemed to dawn upon him. His mind was
not so clouded by the fumes of liquor but that he could comprehend the
supreme misery of the situation. He heard his children crying--fairly
howling for bread. He saw the wife he had sworn to love and honor,
where she had fallen in her unequal conflict, brave, but overpowered.
He remembered the wealthy burgher's blooming, courted daughter, whom
he had lured away to marry him, a poor artist. He remembered how, in
spite of her father's commands and her mother's tears, she had left
home and luxury to follow him throughout the world because of her faith
in him and love for him--how under her inspiration he had risen to
great promise as an artist, till fame and fortune became almost
a certainty, and then, under the debasing influence of his terrible
appetite, he had dragged her down and down, till now he saw
her--prematurely old, broken in health, broken in heart--fall helplessly
before the hard drudgery that she no longer had strength to perform.
With a sickening horror he remembered that he had taken even the
pittance she had wrung from that washtub, to feed, not his children,
but his accursed appetite for drink. Even his purple, bloated face
grew livid as all the past rushed upon him, and despair laid an icy
hand upon his heart.

A desperate purpose formed itself within his mind.

Turning to the wall where hung a noble picture, a lovely landscape,
whose rich coloring, warm sunlight, and rural peace formed a sharp,
strange contrast with the meagre, famine-stricken apartment, he was
about to take it down from its fastening when his hand was arrested
by a word--"Father!"

He turned, and saw his son looking at him with his great eyes full of
horror and alarm, as if he were committing a murder.

"I tell you I must, and I vill," said he, savagely.

His wife looked up, sprang to his side, and with her hands upon his
arm, said, "No, Berthold, you must not, you shall not sell dot picture."

He silently pointed to his children crying for bread.

"Take der dress off my back to sell, but not dot picture. Ve may as
vell die before him goes, for we certainly vill after. Dot is de only
ding left of der happy past. Dot, in Gott's hands, is my only hope for
der future. Dot picture dells you vat you vas, vat you might be still
if you vould only let drink alone. Many's der veary day, many's der
long night, I've prayed dot dot picture vould vin you back to your
former self, ven tears and sufferings vere in vain. Leave him, and
some day he vill tell you so plain vat you are, and vot you can be,
dot you break der horrid spell dot chains you, and your artist-soul
come again. Leave him, our only hope, and sole bar against despair and
death. I vill go and beg a dousand times before dot picture's sold;
for if he goes, your artist-soul no more come back, and you're lost,
and ve all are lost."

The man hesitated. His good angel was pleading with him, but in vain.

Stamping his foot with rage and despair, he shouted, hoarsely, "It is
too late I am lost now."

And he tore the picture from its fastening. His wife sank back against
the wall with a groan as if her very soul were departing.

But before his rash steps could leave the desolation he had made, he
was confronted by the tall form of Dennis Fleet.

The man stared at him for a moment as if he had been an apparition,
and then said, in a hard tone, "Let me pass!"

Dennis had knocked for some time, but such was the excitement within
no one had regarded the sound. He had, therefore, heard the wife's
appeal and its answer, and from what he knew of the family from his
mission scholar, the boy Ernst, comprehended the situation in the main.
When, therefore, matters reached the crisis, he opened the door and
met the infatuated man as he was about to throw away the last relic
of his former self and happier life. With great tact he appeared as
if he knew nothing, and quietly taking a chair he sat down with his
back against the door, thus barring egress. In a pleasant, affable
tone, he said: "Mr. Bruder, I came to see you on a little business
to-night. As I was in something of a hurry, and no one appeared to
hear my knock, I took the liberty of coming in."

The hungry little ones looked at him with their round eyes of childish
curiosity, and for a time ceased their clamors. The wife sank into a
chair and bowed her head in her hands with the indifference of despair.
Hope had gone. A gleam of joy lighted up Ernst's pale face at the sight
of his beloved teacher, and he stepped over to his mother and commenced
whispering in her ear, but she heeded him not. The man's face wore a
sullen, dangerous, yet irresolute expression. It was evident that he
half believed that Dennis was knowingly trying to thwart him, and such
was his mad frenzy that he was ready for any desperate deed.



CHAPTER XVII

RESCUED


In a tone of suppressed excitement, which he tried in vain to render
steady, Mr. Bruder said: "You haf der advantage of me, sir. I know not
your name. Vat is more, I am not fit for bissiness dis night. Indeed,
I haf important bissiness elsewhere. You must excuse me," he added,
sternly, advancing toward the door with the picture.

"Pardon me, Mr. Bruder," said Dennis, politely. "I throw myself entirely
on your courtesy, and must ask as a very great favor that you will not
take away that picture till I see it, for that, in part, is what I
came for. I am in the picture trade myself, and think I am a tolerably
fair judge of paintings. I heard accidentally you had a fine one, and
from the glimpse I catch of it, I think I have not been misinformed.
If it is for sale, perhaps I can do as well by you as any one else.
I am employed in Mr. Ludolph's great store, the 'Art Building.' You
probably know all about the place."

"Yes, I know him," said the man, calming down somewhat.

"And now, sir," said Dennis, with a gentle, winning courtesy impossible
to resist, "will you do me the favor of showing me your picture?"

He treated poor Bruder as a gentleman, and he, having really been one,
was naturally inclined to return like courtesy. Therefore he said,
"Oh, certainly, since you vish to see him. I suppose I might as vell
sell him to you as any von else."

Mr. Bruder was a man of violent impulses, and his mad excitement was
fast leaving him under Dennis's cool, business-like manner. To gain
time was now the great desideratum.

The picture having been replaced upon the wall, Mr. Bruder held the
lamp so as to throw upon it as good a light as possible.

Dennis folded his arms calmly and commenced its study. He had meant
to act a part---to pretend deep interest and desire for long critical
study---that he might secure more time, but in a few moments he became
honestly absorbed in the beautiful and exquisitely finished landscape.

The poor man watched him keenly. Old associations and feelings,
seemingly long dead, awoke. As he saw Dennis manifest every mark of
true and growing appreciation, he perceived that his picture was being
studied by a discriminating person. Then his artist-nature began to
quicken into life again. His eyes glowed, and glanced rapidly from
Dennis to the painting, back and forth, following up the judgment on
each and every part which he saw written in the young man's face. As
he watched, something like hope and exultation began to light up his
sullen, heavy features; thought and feeling began to spiritualize and
ennoble what but a little before had been so coarse and repulsive.

Ernst was looking at Dennis in rapt awe, as at a messenger from heaven.

The poor wife, who had listened in a dull apathy to the conversation,
raised her head in sudden and intelligent interest when the picture
was replaced upon the wall. It seemed that her every hope was bound
up in that. As she saw Dennis and her husband standing before it---as
she saw the face of the latter begin to assume something of its former
look---her whole soul came into her great blue eyes, and she watched
as if more than life were at stake.

If that meagre apartment, with its inmates, their contrasts of
character, their expressive faces, could have then been portrayed, it
would have made a picture with power to move the coldest heart.

At last Dennis drew a long breath, turned and gave his hand to the
man, saying with hearty emphasis, "Mr. Bruder, you are an artist."

The poor man lifted his face to heaven with the same expression of joy
and gratitude that had rested on it long, long years ago, when his
first real work of merit had received similar praise.

His wife saw and remembered it, and, with an ecstatic cry that thrilled
Dennis's soul, exclaimed, "Ah! mine Gott be praised! mine Gott be
praised! his artist-soul come back!" and she threw herself on her
husband's neck, and clung to him with hysteric energy. The man melted
completely, and bowed his head upon his wife's shoulder, while his
whole frame shook with sobs.

"I will be back in half an hour," said Dennis, hastily, brushing tears
from his own eyes. "Come with me, Ernst."

At the foot of the stairs Dennis said: "Take this money, Ernst, and
buy bread, butter, tea, milk, and coal, also a nice large steak, for
I am going to take supper with you to-night. I will stay here and
watch, for your father must not be permitted to go out."

"Oh, Gott bless you! Gott bless you!" said the boy, and he hurried
away to do his errand.

Dennis walked up and down before the door on guard. Ernst soon returned,
and carried the welcome food upstairs. After a little time he stole
down again and said: "Father's quiet and queer like. Mother has given
the children a good supper and put them to bed. Better come now."

"In a few moments more; you go back and sit down quietly and say
nothing."

After a little Dennis went up and knocked at the door. Mrs. Bruder
opened it, and held out her hand. Her quivering lips refused to speak,
but her eyes filled with grateful tears. The children were tucked away
in bed. Ernst crouched by the fire, eating some bread and butter, for
he was cold and half-famished. Mr. Bruder sat in the dusky corner with
his head in his hands, the picture of dejection. But, as Dennis entered,
he rose and came forward. He tried to speak, but for a moment could
not. At last he said, hoarsely: "Mr. Vleet, you haf done me and mine
a great kindness. No matter vat the result is, I dank you as I never
danked any living being. I believe Gott sent you, but I fear too late.
You see before you a miserable wreck. For months and years I haf been
a brute, a devil. Dot picture dere show you vat I vas, vat I might haf
been. You see vat I am," he added, with an expression of intense
loathing. "I see him all to-night as if written in letters of fire,
and if dere is a vorse hell dan der von I feel vithin my soul, Gott
only knows how I am to endure him."

"Mr. Bruder, you say I have done you a favor."

"Gott knows you haf."

"I want you to do me one in return. I want you to let me be your
friend," said Dennis, holding out his hand.

The man trembled, hesitated; at last he said, brokenly, "I am not
fit--to touch--your hand."

"Mr. Bruder," said Dennis, gently, "I hope that I am a Christian."

"Still more, den, I am unfit efer to be in your presence."

"What! am I greater than my Master? Did not Christ take the hand of
every poor, struggling man on earth that would let Him? Come, Mr.
Bruder, if you have any real gratitude for the little I have done to
show my interest in you and yours, grant me my request."

"Do you really mean him?" he gasped. "Do you really vant to be drunken
old Berthold Bruder's friend?"

"God is my witness, I do," said Dennis, still holding out his hand.

The poor fellow drew a few short, heavy breaths, and then grasped
Dennis's hand, and clung to it with the force of a drowning man.
"Oh!" said he, after a few moments of deep emotion, "I feel dot I haf
a plank under me now."

"God grant that yon may soon feel that you are on the Rock Christ
Jesus," said Dennis, solemnly.

Fearing the reaction of too great and prolonged emotion, Dennis now
did everything in his power to calm and quiet his new-found friends.
He told them that he boarded at a restaurant, and he asked if he might
take supper with them.

"Him is yours already," said Mr. Bruder.

"No, it isn't," said Dennis--"not after I have given it to you. But
I want to talk to you about several matters, for I think you can be
of great service to me;" and he told them of his experience during the
day; that he had been promoted, and that he wanted Ernst to come and
aid him in his duties. Then he touched on the matter nearest his
heart--his own wish to be an artist, his need of instruction--and told
how by his increase of pay he had now the means of taking lessons,
while still able to support his mother and sisters.

"And now, Mr. Bruder, I feel that I have been very fortunate in making
your acquaintance. You have the touch and tone that I should be
overjoyed to acquire. Will you give me lessons?"

"Yes, morning, noon, and night, vithout von shent of pay."

"That will not do. I'll not take one on those terms."

"I vill do vatever you want me to," said the man, simply, "I vish I
could be led and vatched over as a little child."

Dennis saw his pathetic self-distrust, and it touched him deeply.

"As your friend," he said, with emphasis, "I will not advise you to
do anything that I would not do myself."

So they arranged that Ernst should go to the store in the morning, and
that Dennis should come three nights in the week for lessons.

All made a hearty supper save Mr. Bruder. He had reached that desperate
stage when his diseased stomach craved drink only. But a strong cup
of tea, and some bread that he washed down with it, heartened him a
little, and it was evident that he felt better. The light of a faint
hope was dawning in his face.

Dennis knew something of the physical as well as moral Struggle before
the poor man, and knew that after all it was exceedingly problematical
whether he could be saved. Before he went away he told Mrs. Bruder to
make her husband some very strong coffee in the morning, and to let
him drink it through the day. As for Bruder, he had resolved to die
rather than touch another drop of liquor.

But how many poor victims of appetite have been haunted to the grave
by such resolves--shattered and gone almost as soon as made!

After a long, earnest talk, in which much of the past was revealed on
both sides, Dennis drew a small Testament from is pocket and said:
"Mr. Bruder, I wish to direct your thoughts to a better Friend than
I am or can be. Will you let me read you something about Him?"

"Yes, and dank you. But choose someding strong--suited to me."

Dennis read something strong--the story of the Demoniac of Gadara, and
left him "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind."

"Mr. Bruder, permit me as your _friend_ to say that I think that is the
only safe place for you.  Your better self, your true manhood, has been
overpowered by the demon of intemperance. I do not undervalue human will
and purpose, but I think you need a divine, all-powerful Deliverer."

"I know you are right," said Mr. Bruder.  "I haf resolved ofer and
ofer again, only to do vorse, and sink deeper at der next temptation,
till at last I gave up trying. Unless I am sustained by some strength
greater dan mine, I haf no hope.  I feel dot your human sympathy and
kindness vill be a great help to me, and somehow I dake him as an
earnest dot Gott vil be kind to me too."

"Oh, Mr. Fleet!" he continued, as Dennis rose to go, "how much I owe
to you! I vas in hell on earth ven you came. I vould haf been in hell
beneath before morning. I proposed, from the proceeds of dot picture,
to indulge in von more delirium, and den seek to quench all in der
vaters of der lake."

Dennis shuddered, but said: "And I believe that God purposes that you
should have a good life here, and a happy life in heaven. Co-work with
Him."

"If He vill help me, I'll try," said the man, humbly. "Good-night, and
Gott bless you;" and he almost crushed Dennis's hand.

As the young man turned to Mrs. Bruder, he was much struck by her
appearance: she was very pale, and a wonderful light shone from her
eyes. She took his hand in both of hers, and looked at him for a moment
with an expression he could never forget, and then slowly pointed
heavenward without a word.

Dennis hastened away, much overcome by his own feelings. But the silent,
deserted streets seemed luminous, such was the joy of his heart.



CHAPTER XVIII

MISS LUDOLPH MAKES A DISCOVERY


Several hours were measured off by the clock of a neighboring steeple
before Dennis's excited mind was sufficiently calm to permit sleep,
and even then he often started up from some fantastic dream in which
the Bruders and Mr. and Miss Ludolph acted strange parts. At last he
seemed to hear exquisite music. As the song rose and fell, it thrilled
him with delight. Suddenly it appeared to break into a thousand pieces,
and fall scattering on the ground, like a broken string of pearls, and
this musical trash, as it were, awoke him. The sun was shining brightly
into the room, and all the air seemed vibrating with sweet sounds. He
started up and realized that he had greatly overslept. Much vexed, he
began to dress in haste, when he was startled by a brilliant prelude
on the piano, and a voice of wonderful power and sweetness struck into
an air that he had never heard before. Soon the whole building was
resonant with music, and Dennis stood spellbound till the strange,
rich sounds died away, as before, in a few instrumental notes that had
seemed in his dream like the song breaking into glittering fragments.

"It must be Miss Ludolph," thought Dennis. "And can she sing like that?
What an angel true faith would make of her! Oh, how could I oversleep
so!" And he dressed in breathless haste. In going down to the second
floor, he found a piano open and new music upon it, which Miss Ludolph
had evidently been trying; but she was not there. Yet a peculiar
delicate perfume which the young lady always used pervaded the place,
even as her song had seemed to pulsate through the air after it had
ceased. She could not be far off. Stepping to a picture show-room over
the front door, Dennis found her sitting quietly before a large
painting, sketching one of the figures in it.

"I learned from my father that you were a very early riser," she said,
looking up for a moment, and then resuming her work. "I fear there is
some mistake about it. If we are ever to get through rearranging the
store you will have to curtail your morning naps."

"I most sincerely beg your pardon. I never overslept so before. But
I was out late last night, and passed through a most painful scene,
that so disturbed me that I could not sleep till nearly morning, and
I find to my great vexation that I have overslept. I promise you it
shall not happen again."

"I am not sure of that, if you are out late in Chicago, and passing
through painful scenes. I should say that this city was a peculiarly
bad place for a young man to be out late in."

"It was an experience wholly unexpected to me, and I hope it may never
occur again. It was a scene of trouble that I had no hand in making,
but which even humanity would not permit me to leave at once."

"Not a scene of measles or smallpox, I hope. I am told that your mission
people are indulging in these things most of the time. You have not
been exposed to any contagious disease?"

"I assure you I have not."

"Very well; be ready to assist me to-morrow morning, for we have no
slight task before us, and I wish to complete it as soon as possible.
I shall be here at half-past six, and do not promise to sing you awake
every morning. Were you not a little startled to hear such unwonted
sounds echoing through the prosaic old store?"

"I was indeed. At first I could not believe that it was a human voice."

"That is rather an equivocal compliment."

"I did not mean to speak in compliment at all, but to say in all
sincerity that I have seldom heard such heavenly music."

"Perhaps you have never heard very much of any kind, or else your
imagination overshadows your other faculties. In fact I think it does,
for did you not at first regard me as a painted lady who had stepped
from the canvas to the floor?"

"I confess that I was greatly confused and startled."

"In what respect did you see such a close resemblance?"

Dennis hesitated.

"Are you not able to tell?" asked she.

"Yes," said Dennis, with heightened color, "but I do not like to say."

"But I wish you to say," said she, with a slightly imperious tone.

"Well, then, since you wish me to speak frankly, it was your expression.
As you stood by the picture you unconsciously assumed the look and
manner of the painted girl. And all the evening and morning I had been
troubling over the picture and wondering how an artist could paint so
lovely a face, and make it express only scorn and pride. It seemed to
me that such a face ought to have been put to nobler uses."

Miss Ludolph bit her lip and looked a little annoyed, but turning to
Dennis she said, with some curiosity: "You are not a bit like the man
who preceded you. How did you come to take his place?"

"I am poor, and will gratefully do any honest work rather than beg or
starve."

"I wish all the poor were of the same mind, but, from the way they
drag on us who have something to give, I think the rule is usually the
other way. Very well, that will answer; since you have asked papa to
let you continue to do Pat's duties, you had better be about them,
though it is not so late as you think;" and she turned to her sketching
in such a way as to quietly dismiss him.

She evidently regarded him with some interest and curiosity, as a
unique specimen of the genus homo, and, looking upon him as a humble
dependant, was inclined to speak to him freely and draw him out for
her amusement.

On going downstairs he saw that Mr. Ludolph was writing in his office.
He was an early riser, and sometimes, entering the side door by a pass
key before the store was opened, would secure an extra hour for
business. He shook his head at Dennis, but said nothing.

By movements wonderfully quick and dexterous Dennis went through his
wonted tasks, and at eight o'clock, the usual hour, the store was ready
for opening.

Mr. Ludolph often caught glimpses of him as he darted to and fro, his
cheeks glowing, and every act suggesting superabundant life.

He sighed and said: "After all, that young fellow is to be envied. He
is getting more out of existence than most of us. He enjoys everything,
and does even hard work with a zest that makes it play. There will be
no keeping him down, for he seems possessed by the concentrated vim
of this driving Yankee nation. Then he has a world of delusions besides
that seem grand realities. Well, it is a sad thing to grow old and
wise."

Indeed it is, in Mr. Ludolph's style.

When Dennis opened the front door, there was Ernst cowering in the
March winds, and fairly trembling in the flutter of his hopes and
fears. Dennis gave him a hearty grasp of the hand and drew him in,
saying, "Don't be afraid; I'll take care of you."

The boy's heart clung to him as the vine tendril clasps the oak, and,
upheld by Dennis's strength, he entered what was to him wonderland
indeed.

Mr. Ludolph looked him over as he and his daughter passed out on their
return to breakfast, and said, "He will answer if he is strong enough."

He saw nothing in that child's face to fear.

Dennis assured him with a significant glance, which Mr. Ludolph
understood as referring to better fare, that "he would grow strong
fast now."

Miss Ludolph was at once interested in the boy's pale face and large,
spiritual eyes; and she resolved to sketch them before good living had
destroyed the artistic effect.

Under kindly instruction, the boy took readily to his duties, and
promised soon to become very helpful. At noon Dennis took him out to
lunch, and the poor, half-starved lad feasted as he had not for many
a long day.

The afternoon mail brought Dennis his mother's letter, and he wondered
that her prediction should be fulfilled even before it reached him,
and thus again his faith was strengthened. He smiled and said to
himself, "Mother lives so near the heavenly land that she seems to get
the news thence before any one else."

During the day a lady who was talking to Mr. Ludolph turned and said
to Dennis: "How prettily you have arranged this table! Let me see; I
think I will take that little group of bronzes. They make a very nice
effect together."

Dennis, with his heart swelling that he had arrived at the dignity of
salesman, with much politeness, which evidently pleased the lady,
assured her that they would be sent promptly to her address.

Mr. Ludolph looked on as if all was a matter of course while she was
present, but afterward said: "You are on the right track, Fleet. You
now see the practical result of a little thought and grace in
arrangement. In matters of art, people will pay almost as much for
these as for the things themselves. The lady would not have bought
those bronzes under Berder's system. When things are grouped rightly,
people see just what they want, and buy the _effect_ as well as the
articles;" and with this judicious praise Mr. Ludolph passed on, better
pleased with himself even than with Dennis.

But, as old Bill Cronk had intimated, such a peck of oats was almost
too much for Dennis, and he felt that he was in danger of becoming too
highly elated.

After closing the store, he wrote a brief but graphic letter to his
mother, describing his promotion, and expressing much sympathy for
poor Berder. Regarding himself as on the crest of prosperity's wave,
he felt a strong commiseration for every degree and condition of
troubled humanity, and even could sigh over unlucky Berder's deserved
tribulations.

About eight o'clock he started to see his new friends in De Koven
Street, and take his lesson in drawing. They welcomed him warmly, for
they evidently looked upon him as the one who might save them from the
engulfing waves of misfortune and evil.

The children were very different from the clamorous little wolves of
the night before. No longer hungry, they were happy in the corner,
with some rude playthings, talking and cooing together like a flock
of young birds. Ernst was washing the tea-things, while his mother
cared for the baby, recalling to Dennis, with a rush of tender memories,
his mother and his boyhood tasks. Mr. Bruder still sat in the dusky
corner. The day had been a hard one for him. Having nothing to do in
the present, he had lived the miserable past over and over again. At
times his strength almost gave way, but his wife would say, "Be patient!
your friend Mr. Fleet will be in soon."

From a few hints of what had passed, Dennis saw the trouble at once.
Mr. Bruder must have occupation. After a few kindly generalities, they
two got together, as congenial spirits, before the rescued picture;
and soon both were absorbed in the mysteries of the divine art.

As the wife looked at the kindling, interested face of her husband,
she murmured to herself over and over again, like the sweet refrain
of a song, "His artist-soul haf come back; it truly haf."

The lesson that night could be no more than a talk on general principles
and rules. But Mr. Bruder soon found that he had an apt scholar, and
Dennis's enthusiasm kindled his own flagging zeal, and the artist-soul
awakening within him, as his wife believed, longed to express itself
as of old in glowing colors.

Moreover, his ambition was renewed in this promising pupil. Naturally
generous, and understanding his noble profession, he felt his poor
benumbed heart stir and glow at the thought of aiding this eager
aspirant to become what he had hoped to be. He might live again in the
richer and better-guided genius of his scholar.

"I will send you by Ernst in the morning some sketching paper,
materials, and canvas, and you can prepare some studies for me. I will
let him bring some drawings and colorings that I have made of late in
odd moments, and you can see about how advanced I am, and what faults
I have fallen into while groping my own way. And I am going to send
you some canvas, also, for I am quite sure that if you paint a picture
Mr. Ludolph will buy it."

The man's face brightened visibly at this.

"Will you let your friend make a suggestion?" continued Dennis.

"You can command me," said Mr. Bruder, with emphasis.

"No; friends never do that; but I would like to suggest that at first
you take some simple subject, that you can soon finish, and leave
efforts that require more time for the future. That picture there shows
what you can do, and you need to work now more from the commercial
standpoint than the artist's."

After a moment's thought, the man said, "You are right. As I look
around dis room, and see our needs, I see dat you are right. Do' I
meant to attempt someding difficult, to show Mr. Ludolph vat I could
do."

"That will all come in good time; and now, my friend, good-night."

The next day was far more tolerable for poor Bruder, because he was
occupied, and he found it much easier to resist the clamors of appetite.

Dennis's sketches interested him greatly, for, though they showed the
natural defects of one who had received little instruction, both power
and originality were manifest in their execution.

"He, too, can be an artist, if he vill," was his emphatic comment,
after looking them over.

He prepared one study, to be continued under his own eye, and another
for Dennis to work at alone. Afterward he sat down to something for
himself. He thought a few moments, and then outlined rapidly as his
subject the figure of a man dashing a wineglass to the ground.

As he worked, his wife smiled encouragement to him as of old, and often
looked upward in thankfulness to Heaven.



CHAPTER XIX

WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH HIM?


The sun was just tingeing the eastern horizon with light when Dennis
sprang from his bed on the following morning. He vowed that Miss Ludolph
should never have cause to complain of him again; for, great as was
the luxury of being awakened by such exquisite music, it was one that
he could not afford.

It must be confessed that he gave a little more care than usual that
morning to his toilet; but his resources were very limited. Still, as
nature had done so much for him, he could not complain. By half-past
six his duties in the store were accomplished, and brushed and furbished
up as far as possible, he stood outside the door awaiting his fair
task-mistress. Sometimes he wondered at the strange fascination she
exercised over him, but generally ended by ascribing it to her beauty
and love of art.

A little after the time appointed she appeared with her father, and
seemed pleased at Dennis's readiness for work.

"I shall not have to sing you awake this morning," she said, "and I
am glad, for I am in a mood for business."

She was attired in a close-fitting walking-dress that set off her
graceful person finely. It was evident that her energetic nature would
permit no statuesque repose while Dennis worked, but that she had come
prepared for active measures.

She had inherited a good constitution, which, under her father's
direction, had been strengthened and confirmed by due regard to hygienic
rules. Therefore she had reached the stage of early womanhood abounding
in vitality and capable of great endurance. Active, graceful motion
was as natural to her as it is for a swallow to be on the wing. The
moment she dropped her book, palette, or pencil, she was on her feet,
her healthful nature seeming like a mountain brook, that, checked for
a time in its flow, soon overleaps its bounds and speeds on more swiftly
than ever. But the strange part of this superabundant activity was,
that she never seemed to do anything in an abrupt way, as from mere
impulse. Every act glided into another smoothly and gracefully. Her
lithe, willowy figure, neither slight nor stout, was peculiarly adapted
to her style of movement. She delighted in the game of billiards, for
the quick movements and varied attitudes permitted, and the precision
required, were all suited to her taste; and she had gained such
marvellous skill that even her father, with his practiced hand, was
scarcely her match.

As she tripped lightly up the long winding stairs to the show-room
over the front door where their labors were to begin, she appeared to
Dennis the very embodiment of grace and beauty. And yet she seemed so
cold and self-centred, so devoid of warm human interest in the great
world of love, joy, and suffering, that she repelled while she
fascinated.

"If the blood should come into the cheeks of one of her father's
statues, and the white marble eyes turn to violet blue, and the snowy
hair to wavy gold, and it should spring from its pedestal into just
such life, it would be more like her than any woman I ever saw," thought
Dennis, as he stood for a moment or two waiting to do her bidding.

Her plans had been thoroughly matured, and she acted with decision.
Pointing to the side opposite the door--the side which would naturally
strike the eye of the visitor first--she said, "I wish all the pictures
taken down from that wall and placed around the room so that I can see
them."

She began as an absolute dictator, intending to give no hint of her
plans and purposes except as conveyed by clear, terse orders. But these
had so intelligent and appreciative an interpreter in Dennis, that
gradually her attention was drawn to him as well as to his work.

He had his step-ladder ready, and with a celerity decidedly pleasing,
soon placed the pictures safely on the floor, so that she could still
see them and judge of their character. Though his dexterous manner and
careful handling of the pictures were gratifying, it must be confessed
that his supple form, the graceful and varied attitudes he unconsciously
assumed in his work, pleased her more, and she secretly began to study
him as an artistic subject, as he had studied her.

In her complacency she said: "So far, very well, Mr. Fleet. I
congratulate myself that I have you to assist me, instead of that
awkward fraud, Mr. Berder."

"And I assure you, Miss Ludolph, that I have longed intensely for this
privilege ever since I knew your purpose."

"You may have cause to repent, like many another whose wishes have
been gratified; for your privilege will involve a great deal of hard
work."

"The more the better," said Dennis, warmly.

"How so? I should think you had more to do now than you would care
about."

"Work is no burden to one of my years and strength, provided it is
suited to one's tastes. Moreover, I confess that I hope to derive great
advantages from this labor."

"In what way?" she asked, with a slight frown, imagining that he
thought of extra pay.

"Because unconsciously you will give me instruction, and I hope that
you are not unwilling that I should gain such hints and suggestions
as I can from the display of your taste that I must witness."

"Not at all," said she, laughing. "I see that you are ambitious to
learn your business and rise in the store."

"I am ambitious to gain a knowledge of one of the noblest callings."

"What is that?"

"Art."

"What!" said she, with a half-scornful smile; "are you a disciple of
art?"

"Yes; why not?"

"Well, I do not wish to hurt your feelings, but, to tell you the honest
truth, it seems but the other day that you were Pat Murphy."

"But am I a Pat Murphy?" he asked, with gentle dignity.

"No, Mr. Fleet; I will do you the justice to say that I think you very
much above your station."

"I am sufficiently a democrat, Miss Ludolph, to believe that a man can
be a man in any honest work."

"And I, Mr. Fleet, am not in the least degree a democrat."

Which fact she proceeded to prove by ordering him about for the next
hour like the most absolute little despot that ever queened it over
a servile province in the dark ages. Bat it was rather difficult to
keep up this style of dictatorship with Dennis. He seemed so intelligent
and polite that she often had it to her tongue to ask his opinion on
certain points. Toward the last she did so, and the opinion he gave,
she admitted to herself, was judicious; but for a purpose of her own
she disregarded it, and took a different way.

Dennis at once saw through her plan of arrangement. In the centre of
that side of the room which he had cleared, she caused him to hang one
of the largest and finest pictures, which, under Mr. Schwartz's
management, had been placed in a corner. Around the central painting
all the others were to be grouped, according to color, subject, and
merit. At the same time each wall was to have a character of its own.
Such a task as this would require no little thought, study, and
comparison; and Miss Ludolph was one to see delicate points of
difference which most observers would not notice. It was her purpose
to make the room bloom out naturally like a great flower. This careful
selection of pictures was necessarily slow, and Dennis rejoiced that
their united work would not soon be over.

To her surprise she often saw his eyes instinctively turning to the
same picture that she was about to select, and perceived that he had
divined her plan without a word of explanation, and that his taste was
constantly according with hers in producing the desired effects. Though
all this filled her with astonishment, she revealed no sign of it to
him. At eight she said: "That will do for to-day. We have made a good
beginning--better indeed than I had hoped. But how is it, Mr. Fleet,
since you are such an uncompromising democrat, that you permit a young
lady to order you about in this style?"

Dennis smiled and said: "It seems perfectly natural for you to speak
in this way, and it does not appear offensive as it might in another.
Moreover, I have voluntarily taken this position and am in honor bound
to accept all it involves."

"But which was the controlling motive of your mind?"

"Well, a few seem born to command, and it is a pleasure to obey," said
Dennis, paying a strong but honest compliment to the natural little
autocrat.

"Indeed, Mr. Fleet, do church members flatter?" said she, secretly
much pleased.

"I did not mean to flatter," said he, flushing. "They who have power
should use it like the All-powerful--gently, considerately."

It was her turn to flush now, and she said, "Oh, I perceive, the
compliment was the sugar-coating of the little homily to follow."

"I have no such diplomacy as you credit me with," said Dennis, looking
straight into her eyes with honest frankness. "I merely spoke my passing
thought."

"But he has fine eyes," said she to herself, and then she said to him:
"Very well, I certainly will give you credit for being superior to
your position. Be ready again to-morrow at the same hour;" and with
a smile somewhat kindly she vanished.

Somehow she seemed to take the light out of the room with her. The
pictures suddenly looked tame and ordinary, and everything commonplace.
Here was an effect not exactly artistic, which he could not understand.
He sighed, he scarcely knew why.

But the day's duties came with a rush, and soon he was utterly absorbed
in them.

That evening Dennis was much cheered by Mr. Bruder's comments on his
sketches.

"Considering de advantages you haf had, an de little time you can give,
dey are very goot. You haf fallen into de natural faults of dose who
work alone, but we can soon cure dese. Now here is some vork dat I
vant you to do under my eye, and dat study on outlining you can take
home. Moreover, I can give you some lessons in outlining from my own
picture;" and Mr. Bruder showed him what he had done.

Dennis saw in the clear, vigorous profile the artist's thought, and
congratulated himself that his teacher was a master in his profession.

For two hours they worked and talked, and Dennis felt that every such
lesson would be a long step forward.

Poor Bruder looked more and more like himself every day, but God only
knew how he had to struggle.

"I don't know how him vill end," he said. "I pray nearly every minute,
but sometimes I feel dat I must drink even do' I die dat moment."

It was disease as well as appetite that he was fighting, for appetite
indulged beyond a certain point becomes disease.

His wife's face was different also--the sharp look of misery fading
out of it. Dennis noticed the changes, and thought to himself, while
walking home: "After all, the highest art is to bring out on the living
face all we can of God's lost image. How beautiful the changes in these
two poor people's faces! and the best part of it is, that they are the
reflex of changes going on in the soul, the imperishable part."

Then, in quick and natural transition, his mind reverted to Christine
Ludolph; and the thought of her face, which God had fashioned so fair,
but which was already sadly marred by sin, becoming fixed and rigid
in pride and selfishness, was as painful as if, according to an old
legend, her lithe, active form should gradually turn to stone. But if
the reverse could ever be true--if the beautifying Christian graces
could dwell within her soul and light up her face--as lamps illumining
some rare and quaint transparency, the resulting loveliness would
realize the artist's fondest ideal.

Musing thus, what wonder that he vowed then and there, under the
starlight, to pray and work for her till the new life should illumine
her heart. Little dreamed Christine, as she slept that night, that the
first link of a chain which might bind her to heaven had been forged.

The dawn was late and lowering on the following morning. Great masses
of clouds swept across the sky, and soon the rain was falling in gusty
torrents. Dennis rose and hastened through his duties as before, and
was ready at the hour appointed, but had little hope of seeing Miss
Ludolph. Still he opened the door and looked up the street. To his
surprise he saw her coming, attended by her father's valet. Only part
of her glowing face was visible, for she was incased from head to foot
in a light and delicate suit of rubber.

Dennis opened the door, and she stepped quickly in, scattering spray
on every side like a sea-nymph. The young man looked at her with
open-eyed admiration and surprise, which both amused and pleased her.

"True enough," she thought, "his face is like a signboard."

She seemed to him, as she threw off her wet coverings, like an exquisite
flower, that, lifted by the breeze after a storm, scatters the
burdensome rain-drops on every side and stands up more beautiful and
blooming than ever.

"You were not expecting me, I imagine," she said.

"Well, I must admit I scarcely did, and yet I could not help looking
for you."

"Isn't that a distinction without a difference?" she asked, with a
pleasant smile, for she was gratified at not finding the store closed
and dark.

"I am very glad you have come," he replied, flushing slightly with
pleasure, "for it would have been a long, dreary morning if you had
not."

Dennis thought he referred to the lack of occupation. He did not know,
nor did she notice, that he meant the lack of herself.

"Well," said she, "I am glad you like the work, for you destined to
have enough of it."



CHAPTER XX

IS HE A GENTLEMAN?


The days and weeks that followed were to Dennis such as only come once
in a lifetime, and not in every lifetime either. A true, pure love was
growing up within his heart--growing as the little child develops in
strength and pleasurable life, and yet unconsciously to itself. It
seemed as if some strong magician's wand had touched the world or him.
Everything was transfigured, and no wonderland was more full of interest
than that in which he existed. His life was a waking dream, in which
nothing was distinct or definite, but all things abounded in hope and
happy suggestion. He compared it afterward to a tropical island of the
Pacific, a blissful fragment of life by itself, utterly distinct from
the hard, struggling years that preceded, and the painful awakening
that followed.

Even the place of his daily toil was pervaded by a beautiful presence.
For many days he and Christine worked together, and at last her eyes
had rested on, or her fingers had touched, nearly everything in the
store, and therefore all was associated with her. Throughout their
labors his quick sympathy and appreciation made him almost hands and
feet to her, and she regarded him as a miracle of helpfulness--one
of those humble, useful creatures who are born to wait upon and
interpret the wishes of the rich and great. His admiring glances
disturbed her not and raised no suspicion in her mind. She had been
accustomed to such for years, and took them as a matter of course.

She treated the young men whom she met in society with a courtly ease
and freedom, but her smiles and repartee ever seemed like brilliant
moonlight that had no warmth; and, while no restraint appeared, she
still kept all at a distance. There was a marked difference in her
intercourse with Dennis. Regarding him as too humble ever to presume
upon her frankness, she daily spoke more freely, and more truly acted
out herself before him. She was happy and in her element among the
beautiful works of art they were arranging, and in this atmosphere her
womanly nature, chilled and dwarfed though it was, would often manifest
itself in ways sweet and unexpected. Under no other circumstances could
she have appeared so well. She as often spoke to herself in racy comment
on what was before her as to Dennis, and ever and anon would make some
pleasant remark to him, as she might throw a dainty morsel to her
greyhound Wolf, looking wistfully at her while she dined. At the same
time it must be confessed that she had a growing respect for him, as
she daily saw some new proof of his intelligence and taste; but both
education and disposition inclined her instinctively to the old feudal
idea that even genius, if poor, must wait a humble servitor on wealth
and rank, and where a New England girl would have been saying to
herself, "This gifted, educated man is my equal, and, whether I want
to or not, I ought to treat him as such," she was not troubled at all.
To her, he was her father's clerk and man-of-all-work, a most useful,
trusted, and agreeable servant, and she was kind to him as such. Indeed
the little autocrat was kind to every one that pleased her. She was
a benign queen to obedient subjects, but woe to those who were
otherwise.

To Dennis, however, though he realized it not, she was becoming as the
very apple of his eye. He was learning to regard her with a deeper
interest because of the very defects that he plainly recognized. While
on the one hand he had the enthusiastic love caused by his admiration
for her, on the other he felt the tenderer and greater love which was
the result of pity. He tried to account for his feelings toward her
by the usual sophistries of unconscious lovers. It was friendship; it
was artistic interest in her beauty; it was the absorbing, unselfish
regard of a Christian for one providentially commended to him to be
led out of darkness into light. How could he help thinking of one for
whom he prayed night and morning and every hour in the day? It was all
this, but he was soon to learn that it was a great deal more. And so
the days of occupation and companionship passed; the spell worked on
with increasing and bewildering power, and the crisis could not be
delayed much longer.

One morning in the latter part of April she seemed more gracious than
usual. Their labors were drawing to a close, and, as he had proved so
tasteful and efficient in the store, she concluded that he might be
equally useful in other ways and places. She could command him at the
store, but not in respect to a task that she had in view; so she adopted
a little feminine artifice as old as the time when Eve handed Adam the
apple, and she looked at him in such a way that he could not refuse.

Blind, honest Dennis, it is needless to say, saw nothing of this little
strategy of which he was destined to be the happy, willing victim,
and his love expanded and bloomed under the genial light of her presence
and kindness, like the flowers of the convolvulus in a bright dawn of
June. She brought her general graciousness to a definite and blissful
climax by saying, when about to go home, "Well, Mr. Fleet, you have
done better than usual to-day, and I certainly must give you credit
for possessing more taste than any young man of my acquaintance."

Dennis's heart gave as great a bound as if the laurel crown of all the
Olympic games had been placed upon his brow.

"I am now going to ask a favor," she continued.

"You may command me, Miss Ludolph," interrupted Dennis.

"No, not in this case," she replied.  "Whatever you do will be regarded
as a personal favor to me. At the same time it will afford you scope
for such display of your taste as will secure many compliments."

"If I am able to satisfy _you_ I shall be more than compensated," said
Dennis with a bow.

She smiled and thought to herself, "That isn't bad for a porter and
man-of-all-work," and explained as follows:

"Some young ladies and gentlemen have decided upon giving an
entertainment, consisting of music, tableaux, and statuary. Now, in
regard to the two latter parts, we need above all things some person
of taste like yourself, whose critical eye and dexterous hand will
insure everything to be just right. You will be a sort of general stage
manager and superintendent, you know. I feel sure you will be all the
more willing to enter upon this work when you know that the proceeds
are to go toward the Church of the Holy Virgin. This is going to be
a very select affair, and the tickets are five dollars each."

"Is it a Protestant church?" asked Dennis, in some trepidation.

"Oh, certainly," she answered, with a peculiar smile, "an Episcopal
church."

"It seems a strange name for a Protestant church," said Dennis. "It
is enough for me that you wish it; at the same time it certainly is
a pleasure to contribute what little I can to aid any Christian
organization."

"Come, Mr. Fleet, you are narrow," she said, with a controversial
twinkle in her eye. "Why not toward a Catholic church?"

"I fear that all people with decided religious opinions are sometimes
regarded as narrow," he answered, with a smile.

"That is an inadequate answer to my question," she said; "but I will
not find fault since you have so good-naturedly acceded to my request.
Come to No. --  Wabash Avenue at three this afternoon. Papa gives you
leave of absence."

She vanished, and figuratively the sun went down to Dennis, and he was
in twilight till he should see her again. He looked forward to the
afternoon with almost feverish eagerness, for several reasons. It would
be his first introduction to "good society," for as such the
unsophisticated youth regarded the prospect. He had the natural longing
of a young, healthful nature for the companionship of those of his own
age and culture, and his life in the great city had often been very
lonely. He expected, as a matter of course, to be treated as an equal
at the artistic entertainment in which he was to participate. In his
business relations at the store he had taken a subordinate position
and made up his mind to the logical consequences. But now that he was
invited to a private house, and would appear there possessing all the
qualities of a gentleman, he surely would be treated as one. "Is not
this Chicago, whose citizens were nearly all poor a few years ago?"
he thought; "and surely, if what Miss Ludolph says is true, I have
advantages in my taste over most poor young men." Moreover, it was his
ideal of an entertainment, where art and music should take the place
of the coarser pleasures of eating, drinking, and dancing. Chief of
all, Christine would be there, and even he in his blindness became a
little uneasy and self-conscious as he realized how this thought towered
above the others.

She had given him a list of the things he was to bring with him in the
afternoon, and he occupied every spare moment in getting them ready.
At a quarter past two he summoned the carman of the store, and they
loaded up the miscellaneous cargo needed for the coming mysteries, and
by three all were before the large elegant mansion to which he had
been directed. Dennis rang the bell and was shown by a servant into
the front parlor, where he found Miss Ludolph, Miss Brown, a tall,
haughty brunette, and the young lady of the house, Miss Winthrop, a
bright, sunny-faced blonde, and two or three other young ladies of no
special coloring or character, being indebted mainly to their toilets
for their attractions. Dennis bowed to Miss Ludolph, and then turned
toward the other ladies, expecting as a matter of course to be
introduced. No introduction came, but his expectant manner was so
obvious that Miss Ludolph colored and looked annoyed, and the other
young ladies tittered outright.

Advancing a step or two she said, coldly, "Mr. Fleet, you may help
Mapes carry the things into the back parlor, and then we will direct
you as to the arrangement."

Dennis crimsoned painfully. At first he was too confused to think, and
merely obeyed mechanically. Then came the impulse to say boldly that
this kind of thing might answer at the store, but not here, and he
nearly carried it out; but soon followed the sober second thought,
that such action would bring a blight over all his prospects, and
involve the loss of his position at the store. Such giving way to
passion would injure only himself. They would laugh, and merely suffer
a momentary annoyance; to him and his the result would be most
disastrous. Why should he let those who cared not a jot for him cause
such sad injury?

By the time he had carried his first armful into the back parlor, he
had resolved for his mother and sisters' sakes that he would go through
the following scenes as well as he could, and then turn his back on
society till he could enter it a recognized gentleman; and with
compressed lips and flashing eye he mentally vowed that that day should
soon come.

As he was unpacking his materials he could not help hearing the
conversation in the front parlor.

"Did you ever see such presumption?" exclaimed Miss Brown. "He evidently
expected to be introduced, and that we should rise and courtesy
all around."

"He must have seen better days, for he certainly appeared like a
gentleman," said Miss Winthrop.

"I should hardly give that title to a man who swept a store out every
morning" replied Miss Brown.

"No, indeed!" chorused the three colorless young ladies.

"I know nothing about this young man," said Miss Winthrop, ruffling
her plumage somewhat for an argument, of which she was fond; "but, as
a case in hand, suppose a highly educated and refined man for some
reason swept a store out every morning, what would you call him?" and
she looked around as if she had given a poser.

The colorless young ladies looked blank--their natural expression.

"Nonsense!" said the positive Miss Brown; "such men don't sweep stores.
He may have passed current in some country village, but that is not
our set."

"But the case is certainly supposable," retorted Miss Winthrop, more
intent upon her argument than upon Dennis. "Come, what does the Countess
say?" she asked, turning to Christine; for that was the familiar name
by which she went among her young companions.

"The case is not supposable, but actual," she answered, so distinctly
that it seemed that she meant Dennis to hear. "As far as I have any
means of judging, he is a refined, educated man, and I have learned
from papa that his motive in sweeping the store is the support of his
mother and sisters--certainly a very worthy one. To your question,
Susie, I answer unhesitatingly that in accordance with your American
principles and professions he is a gentleman, and you ought to treat
him as such. But you Americans are sometimes wonderfully inconsistent,
and there is often a marvellously wide margin between your boasted
equality and the reality. Now in Europe these questions have been
settled for ages, and birth and rank define a person's position
accurately."

"I do not believe in equality," said Miss Brown, with a toss of her
head. (Her father was a mighty brewer, but he and hers were in character
and antecedents something like the froth on their own beer.)

Miss Winthrop was a little embarrassed at finding her supposed case
a real one, for it might involve some practical action on her part.
Many an ardent advocate of the people in theory gives them practically
the cold shoulder, and is content to stay on the summit of Mt. Olympus.
She was a girl of good impulses and strong convictions of abstract
right, but rarely had either the courage or the opportunity to carry
them out. She was of the old Boston family of Winthrops, and therefore
could meet Miss Ludolph on her own ground in the way of pedigree.

But, however Dennis fared, she felt that she must look after her
argument, and, having conquered theoretically as far as America was
concerned, determined to carry war into Europe, so she said: "Are you
not mistaken in saying that birth and rank only settle position abroad?
Some of the most honored names there are or were untitled."

"Oh, certainly, but they were persons of great genius, and _genius_ is
the highest patent of nobility. But I leave you republicans to settle
this question to suit yourselves. I am going to look after the
preparations for this evening, as I have set my heart on a success
that shall ring through the city."

But they all flocked after her into the back parlor, now doubly
interesting as it contained an object of curiosity in Dennis Fleet--a
veritable gentleman who swept a store.



CHAPTER XXI

CHRISTINE'S IDEA OF CHRISTIANS


The large apartment where the amateur performers expected to win their
laurels was now filled with all the paraphernalia needed to produce
musical, artistic, and scenic effects. Much had been gathered before
Dennis's arrival, and his cart-load added all that was necessary.
Everything seemed in inextricable confusion.

"The idea of having anything here to-night!" exclaimed Miss Winthrop.
"It will take us a week to get things arranged."

"The thing is hopeless," said the blank young ladies.

Even Christine looked somewhat dismayed, but she said, "Remember we
have till half-past eight."

"I will call two or three of the servants," said Miss Brown.

"I beg of you do not, at least not yet," exclaimed Christine. "What
will their clumsy hands do in work like this, but mar everything. I
have great faith in Mr. Fleet's abilities," she continued, turning
toward Dennis, with an enchanting smile, and resuming the tactics of
the morning. Though the smile went to Dennis's heart like a fiery
arrow, his pride, thoroughly aroused, made him cold and self-possessed.
He naturally assumed the manner possible only to the true gentleman
who, though wronged, chooses not to show his feelings save by a grave,
quiet dignity. In view of their action and manner, he consciously felt
himself their superior; and this impression, like an atmosphere, was
felt by them also. As they looked upon his tall, erect form, manly
bearing, and large dark eyes, in which still lurked the fire of an
honest indignation, they felt the impossibility of ordering him about
like Mapes the carman. They regarded him for a moment in awkward
silence, not knowing what to do or say. Even haughty Christine was
embarrassed, for the stronger spirit was present and thoroughly aroused,
and it overpowered the weaker natures. Christine had never seen Dennis
look like that, and did not know that he could. He was so different
from the eager, humble servitor that heretofore had interpreted her
very wishes, even before they were spoken! Moreover, the success of
their entertainment now depended upon him, and she felt that he was
in a mood requiring delicate treatment, and that she could not order
him around in the role to which she had assigned him. And yet if she
had known him, she might, for he had made up his mind to go through
even the most menial service with proud humility, and then be careful
not to be so caught again; and, when Dennis had resolved upon a thing,
that settled the question so far as he was concerned. Seeing Christine's
hesitation and embarrassment, he stepped forward and said: "Miss
Ludolph, if you will indicate _your_ wishes I will carry them out as
rapidly as possible. I can soon bring order out of this confusion; and
you must have some plan of arrangement."

She gave him a quick, grateful glance, that thawed more of his ice
than he cared to have melt so quickly.

"Of course we have," said she. "This is but the nervous hesitation
before the shock of a battle that has all been planned on paper. Here
is our programme."

"All battles do not go forward in the field as planned on paper, if
my feeble memory serves me," said Miss Winthrop, maliciously.

"I grant you that," said Christine, quietly, "and you need not tax
your memory so greatly to prove it."

She was now very kind and gracious to Dennis, believing that to be the
best policy. It usually is, but she received no special proof of it
from him: he listened alike to request, suggestion, and compliment.
There was nothing sullen or morose in his appearance, nothing resentful
or rude. With the utmost respect he heard all she said, and carried
out her wishes with that deft, graceful promptness in which he had few
equals. At the same time his manner was that of one who thoroughly
respected himself--that of a refined and cultivated person, who, having
become committed to a disagreeable part, performed it with only the
protest of dignified silence.

As his first step, he cleared a space for action, and arranged
everything to be in view when needed. The rapidity with which order
emerged from confusion was marvellous to the young ladies.

Then he took their programme, studied it a few moments, and compared
it with the pictures of the scenes they wished to imitate. He then
arranged for these one after another, placing everything needed within
reach, and where it could readily be seen, making the combinations
beforehand as far as possible. As he worked so intelligently and
skilfully, requiring so few explanations, the young ladies exchanged
significant glances, and strolled into the front parlor. They must
express an opinion.

"I declare, Christine," said Miss Winthrop, "it is a shame that you
did not introduce him, for he is a gentleman. He works like a captive
prince."

"How romantic!" gushed the colorless young ladies.

"Nonsense!" said Miss Brown; "I hate to see any one in his position
putting on such airs."

As soon as she had seen Dennis fairly at work just like her mother's
servants, or her father's men, she felt that he ought to be treated
as such--riches being Miss Brown's patent of nobility; and she resolved
if possible to lower his ridiculous pride, as she regarded it. Miss
Brown was a very handsome, stylish girl of a certain type, but she no
more understood Dennis's feelings than she did Sanscrit.

Christine said nothing, but admitted to herself, with a secret wonder,
that Dennis awakened in her a respect, a sort of fear, that no other
man had inspired, save her father. There was something in his manner,
though altogether respectful, that made her feel that he was not to
be trifled with. This impression was decidedly heightened when, a few
moments later, Miss Brown, pursuant of her resolution to lower Dennis's
pride, ordered him in an offensive manner to do something for her that
had no connection with the entertainment. At first he acted as if he
had not heard her, but his rising color showed that he had. In spite
of warning glances from Christine and Miss Winthrop, she repeated her
request in a loud, imperious tone.

Dennis drew himself up to his full height, and, turning his dark eyes
full upon her, said, firmly, "I am ever ready to _offer_ any service
that a gentleman can to a lady, but surely I am not your footman."

"Your pride is ridiculous, sir. You are here to help, and will be paid
for it. This is my house, and I expect persons of your position, while
in it, to do as they are bidden."

"Since such are the rules and principles of your house, permit me at
once to leave you in full possession;" and he was about to retire with
a manner as cold as Mr. Ludolph himself could have assumed, and as
haughty, when a light hand fell upon his arm. Looking down he met the
deep blue eyes of Christine Ludolph lifted pleadingly to his.

"Mr. Fleet, you need not do what is asked. It is not right to require
it. In fact we all owe you an apology." Then, in a low, quick tone,
she added, "Will you not stay as a favor to me?"

She felt his arm tremble under her hand, there was a moment's
hesitation, then he replied, in the same manner, "Miss Ludolph, _you_
can command me on _this_ occasion" (there was no promise for the
future); and then he turned to his work as if resolved to see and know
nothing else till the ordeal ended.

In spite of herself Christine blushed, but taking Miss Brown by the arm
she led her aside and gave her a vigorous lecture.

"Are you sane?" she said. "Do you not remember that nearly a thousand
dollars' worth of tickets are sold, and that the people will be here
by half-past eight, and at nine we must appear? Even after what he has
done, if you should drive him away the thing would be a failure, and
we should be the ridiculous town-talk for a year."

"But I hate--"

"No matter what you hate. Treat him as you please tomorrow. We need
him now;" and so the petted, wilful girl, spoiled by money and flattery,
was kept under restraint.

A great deal of preparation was required for the last two pieces on
the programme, and the young ladies grouped themselves not far off
while Dennis worked. Christine explained from time to time as the
natural leader of the party. Still an awkward silence followed the
scene above described. This restraint could not long endure, and one
of the colorless young ladies asked a question that led to more than
she intended, and indeed, more than she understood.

"Christine, what do you do with yourself Sundays? Your pew is not
occupied once in an age."

"I usually paint most of the day, and ride out with papa in the
afternoon when it is pleasant."

"Why, you are a perfect little heathen!" they all exclaimed in chorus.

"Yes, I suppose I am worse than a pagan," she said, "for I not only
do not believe in your superstitions, but have none of my own."

"What do you believe in, then?" asked Miss Winthrop.

"Art, music, fame, power."

She announced her creed so coolly and decidedly that Dennis lifted a
startled face to hers. She saw his grieved, astonished expression, and
it amused her very much. Henceforth she spoke as much for his benefit
as for theirs.

"If you would be equally honest," she continued, "you would find that
your creeds also are very different from the one in the prayer-book."

"And what would mine be, pray," asked one of the colorless young ladies.

"I will sum it up in one sentence, Miss Jones--'Keep in the fashion.'"

"I think that you are very unjust. I'm sure I go to church regularly,
and attend a great many services in Lent and on Saints' days. I've
been confirmed, and all that."

"Yes, it is the thing to do in your set. Now, here is Miss Winthrop,
a Presbyterian, who manifests quite another religious phase."

"Pray what is mine?" asked that lady, laughing.

"Oh, you want hair-splitting in regard to the high doctrines--clear,
brilliant arguments, cutting like sharp, merciless steel into the
beliefs of other denominations. Then, after your ism has been glorified
for an hour on Sunday morning, and all other isms pierced and lashed,
you descend from your intellectual heights, eat a good dinner, take
a nap, and live like the rest of us till the next Sabbath, when (if
it is a fine day) you climb some other theological peak, far beyond
the limits of perpetual snow, and there take another bird's-eye view
of something that might be found very different if you were nearer to
it."

"And what is my phase?" asked Miss Brown.

"Oh, you are an out-and-out sinner, and do just what you please, in
spite of priest or prayer-book," said Christine, with a laugh in which
all the ladies joined.

"Well," said Miss Brown, "I do not think that I am worse than the rest
of you."

"Not in the least," replied Christine. "We all have some form of
religion, or none at all, as it accords with our peculiar tastes."

"And you mean to say that having a religion or not is a mere matter
of taste?" asked Miss Winthrop.

"Yes, I should say it was, and practically that it _is_. You ladies, and
nearly all that I have met, seem to choose a style of religion suited to
your tastes; and the tastes of many incline them to have no religion at
all."

"Why, Miss Ludolph!" exclaimed Miss Winthrop, her cheeks glowing with
honest dissent and zeal for the truth; "our religion is taken from the
Bible. Do you not believe in the Bible?"

"No! not in the sense in which you ask the question; nor you either,
my charming Miss Winthrop."

"Indeed I do, every word of it," said the orthodox young lady, hotly.

"Let me test you. Miss Brown, have you such a book in the house? Oh,
yes, here is an elegantly bound copy, but looking as if never opened.
And now, Miss Winthrop, this city is full of all sorts of horrid people,
living in alleys and tenement houses. They are poor, half-naked, hungry,
and sometimes starving. Many are in prison, and more ought to be; many
are strangers, more utterly alone and lonely in our crowded streets
than on a desert island. They are suffering from varieties of disgusting
disease, and having a hard time generally. How many hungry people have
you fed? How many strangers (I do not mean distinguished ones from
abroad) have you taken in and comforted? How many of the naked have
you clothed? And how long is your list of the sick and imprisoned that
you have visited, my luxurious little lady?"

A real pallor overspread Miss Winthrop's sunny face, for she saw what
was coming, but she answered, honestly, "I have done practically nothing
of all this." Then she added: "Papa and mamma are not willing that I
should visit such places and people. I have asked that I might, but
they always discourage me, and tell of the awful experiences of those
who do."

"Then they don't believe the Bible, either," said Christine; "for if
they did they would insist on your doing it; and if you believed you
would do all this in spite of them; for see what is written here; the
very Being that you worship and dedicate your churches to will say,
because of your not doing this, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' And this is
but one of many similar passages. Now all this is a monstrous fable
to me. The idea of any such experiences awaiting my light-hearted
little Sybarite here!"

Miss Winthrop had buried her face in her hands, and was trembling from
head to foot. The words of God never seemed so real and true before
as now when uttered by an unbeliever.

"I don't believe there is any such place or things," said Miss Brown,
bluntly.

"There spake my mature and thoughtful friend who is not to be imposed
upon," said Christine, with a touch of irony in her tone.

Dennis had listened in sad wonder. Such words of cynical unbelief were
in dark, terrible contrast with the fair young face. He saw the mind
and training of her father in all she said, but he bitterly condemned
the worldly, inconsistent life of multitudes in the church who do more
to confirm unbelievers than all their sophistries. But as she went on,
seemingly having the argument all her own way, his whole soul burned
to meet and refute her fatal views. For her own sake and the others'
as well as for the dishonored name of his Lord, he must in some way
turn the tide. Though regarded as a humble servitor, having no right
to take part in the conversation, he determined that his hands must
lift up the standard of truth if no others would or could. To his joy
he found that the programme would soon give him the coveted opportunity.

Christine went on with a voice as smooth and musical as the flow of
a stream over a glacier.

"I have read the Bible several times, and that is more than all of you
can say, I think. It is a wonderful book, and has been the inspiration
of some of our best art. There are parts that I enjoy reading very
much for their sublimity and peculiarity. But who pretends to live as
this old and partially obsolete book teaches? Take my father, for
instance. All the gentlemen in the church that I know of can do, and
are accustomed to do, just what he does, and some I think do much
worse; and yet he is an infidel, as you would term him. And as to the
ladies, not the Bible, but fashion rules them with a rod of iron. I
have cut free from it all, and art shall be my religion and the
inspiration of my life."

As Christine talked on, the twilight deepened, and Dennis worked with
increasing eagerness.

"After all," she continued, "it is only history repeating itself. The
educated mind to-day stands in the same attitude toward Christianity
as that of the cultured mind of Greece and Rome toward the older
mythology in the second century. Then as now the form of religion was
kept up, but belief in its truth was fast dying out. The cities abounded
in gorgeous temples, and were thronged with worshippers, but they
sacrificed at the dictates of fashion, custom, and law, not of faith.
So our cities are adorned with splendid churches, and fashion and the
tastes of the congregation decide as to the form of service. The sects
differ widely with each other, and all differ with the Bible. The
ancients gave no more respect to what was regarded as the will of their
imaginary deities than do modern Christians to the precepts of the
Bible. People went to the ceremonies, got through with them, and then
did what they pleased; and so they do now.

"Take for instance one of your commonest doctrines, that of prayer;
the majority have no practical belief in it. My father has taken me,
and out of curiosity I have attended several prayer meetings. The
merest fraction of the congregation are present at the best of times,
and if the night is stormy the number out is ridiculously small. Yet
all profess to believe that the Lord of heaven and earth will be
present, and that it is His will that they should be. Your Bible teaches
that the Being who controls completely the destiny of every person
will be in the midst of those gathered in His name, to hear and answer
their petitions. If this is true, then no earthly ruler was every so
neglected and insulted, so generally ignored, as this very Deity to
whom you ascribe unlimited power, and from whom you say you receive
life and everything. An eastern despot would take off the heads of
those who treated him in such a style; and a republican politician
would scoff at the idea of giving office to such lukewarm followers.
Why, here in Christian Chicago the will of God is no more heeded by
the majority than that of the Emperor of China, and the Bible might
as well be the Koran. Looking at these facts from my impartial
standpoint, I am driven to one of two alternatives: either you regard
your God as so kind and good, so merciful, that you can trespass on
His forbearance to any extent, and treat Him with a neglect and an
indifference that none would manifest toward the pettiest earthly
potentate, and still all will be well; or else you have no real
practical belief in your religion. Though not very charitably inclined,
I cannot think quite so meanly of human nature as to take the former
view, so I am driven to the latter. For surely no man who wished to
live and prosper, no woman who loved her husband and children, could
so coolly and continually disregard the Deity in whom they profess to
believe, with the old Greek poet, that they 'live, move, and have their
being.'"

The twilight deepened, and Christine continued, her words, portraying
the decline of faith, according ominously with the increasing gloom.

"Why, in order to see the truth of what I am saying, look at the emblem
of your faith--the Cross. All its historical associations are those
of self-denial, and suffering for others. The Founder of your faith
endured death upon it. He was a great, good man like Socrates, though
no doubt a mistaken enthusiast. But what He meant He said plainly and
clearly, as, for instance, 'Whosoever doth not bear his cross and come
after Me cannot be My disciple.' I admit that in the past He had a
wonderful following. In the ages of martyrdom multitudes left all, and
endured all that He did, for His sake. But so there have been other
great leaders with equally devoted followers. But in this practical
age religious enthusiasm has but little chance. What crosses do the
members of the Church of the Holy Virgin take up? and what are borne
by your great rich church, Miss Winthrop? The shrewd people of this
day manage better, and put their crosses on the top of the church. I
suppose they reason that the stone tower can carry it for the whole
congregation, on the principle of a labor-saving machine. But, honestly,
your modern disciples are no more like their Master than one of the
pale, slim, white-kidded gentlemen who will be here to-night is like
Richard Coeur de Lion as he led a charge against the Moslems. Your
cross is dwindling to a mere pretty ornament--an emblem of a past that
is fast fading from men's memories. It will never have the power to
inspire the heart again, as when the Crusaders--"

At that moment their eyes were blinded by a sudden, dazzling light.
There was a general and startled exclamation, and then, awe-struck and
silent, they gazed as if spellbound upon a luminous cross blazing
before them.



CHAPTER XXII

EQUAL TO AN EMERGENCY


The fiery cross that so awed Christine and her little group of auditors
was to be the closing scene of the evening entertainment.  It was of
metal, and by a skilful adjustment of jets was made to appear as if
all aflame.  While the others were intent on Christine's words, and
she in the interest of her theme had quite forgotten him, Dennis made
all his arrangements, and at the critical point narrated in the
preceding chapter he turned on the gas with the most startling effect.
It seemed a living, vivid refutation of Christine's words, and even
she turned pale. After a moment, for the emblem to make its full
impression, Dennis stepped out before them all, his face lighted up
by the luminous cross.  They admitted that no crusader could look more
earnest and brave than he.

"Miss Ludolph," he said, in a firm, yet respectful tone, "I should
evermore be unworthy of your respect and confidence--what is more, I
should be false to myself, false to my faith--should I remain silent
in view of what I have been compelled to hear.  That sacred emblem has
not spent its meaning, or its power.  Millions to-day would die for
the sake of Him who suffered on it.  Many even of those weak,
inconsistent ones that you have so justly condemned would part with
life rather than with the faint hope that centres there," pointing to
the radiant symbol.

"You are rude, sir," said Christine, her face pale, but her eyes
flashing in turn.

"No, he is right! he is right!" exclaimed Miss Winthrop, springing up
with tears in her eyes. "Undeserving as I am of the name of Christian,
I would die, I know I would die, before I would give up my poor little
hope--though I confess you make me fear that it is a false one. But
it's the best I have, and I mean it shall be better. I think a good
touch of persecution, that would bring people out, would do the church
more good than anything else.

"Pardon me, Miss Ludolph," continued Dennis; "but I appeal to your
sense of justice. Could I be a true man and be silent, believing what
I do? Could I hear the name of my Best Friend thus spoken of, and say
not one word in His behalf?"

"But I spoke most highly of the Christ of the Bible."

"You spoke of Him as a great, good, but mistaken _man_, an enthusiast.
To me He is the mighty God, my Divine Saviour, to whom I owe infinitely
more than life. You know that I mean no disrespect to you," he added,
with gentle but manly courtesy. "I regret more deeply than words can
express that you honestly think as you do. But if I as honestly believe
the Bible, am I not acting as you said a true follower ought? For I
assure you it is a heavier cross than you can ever know to speak thus
unbidden where I am regarded only as a serving-man. But should I not be
false and cowardly if I held my peace? And if you afterward should know
that I claimed the name of Christian, would you not despise me as you
remembered this scene?"

Christine bit her lip and hesitated, but her sense of justice prevailed,
and she said, "I not only pardon you, but commend your course in view
of your evident sincerity."

Dennis replied by a low bow.

At this moment there was a loud ring at the door.

"There come the gentlemen," exclaimed Miss Brown. "I am so glad! Oh,
dear! what a long, uncomfortable preachment we have had! Now for some
fun!"

The colorless young ladies had stared first at Christine, and then at
the cross, in blank amazement.

At the word "gentlemen" they were all on the alert and ready for _real_
life; but Miss Winthrop left the room for a short time.

A handsome, lively youth entered, scattering bows and compliments on
every side with the off-hand ease of an accomplished society man. He
paid no heed to Dennis, evidently regarding him as the showman.

"Well, ladies, you have done your part," he said; "your arrangements
seem complete."

"Yes, Mr. Mellen; but where is our tenor?" asked Christine. "We have
only three-quarters of an hour for music rehearsal, before we must
retire to dress for our parts."

"Bad news for you, Miss Ludolph," said Mr. Mellen, coming to her side;
"Archer is sick and can't come."

"Can't come?" they all exclaimed in dismayed chorus.

"What is the matter?" asked Miss Winthrop, anxiously, coming in at
that moment.

"Matter enough," said Miss Brown, poutingly; "that horrid Archer has
gone and got sick, I do believe he did it on purpose. He did not know
his parts near as well as he ought, and he has taken this way to get
out of it."

"But he promised me he would study them all the morning," said
Christine. "Oh, I am so sorry! What shall we do? Our entertainment
seems fated to be a failure;" and she spoke in a tone of deep
disappointment.

"I assure you I feel the deepest sympathy for you," said Mr. Mellen,
looking tenderly at Christine, "but I did my best. I tried to drag
Archer here out of his sick-bed, and then I ran around among some other
good singers that I know, but none would venture. They said the music
was difficult, and would require much practice, and that now is
impossible."

"Oh, isn't it too bad?" mourned Miss Winthrop. "The programme is all
printed, and the people will be so disappointed! We can't have that
splendid duet that you and Mr. Archer were to sing, Christine. I have
a score of friends who were coming to hear that alone."

"Oh, as for that matter, half our music is spoiled," said Christine,
dejectedly. "Well, this is the last time I attempt anything of the
kind. How in the world we are going to get out of this scrape I do not
know. The tickets are so high, and so much has been said, that the
people are expecting a great deal, and there is every prospect of a
most lame and impotent conclusion."

A general gloom settled upon the faces of all. At this moment Dennis
stepped forward hesitatingly and said to Christine, "Have you the music
that Mr. Archer was to sing?"

"Certainly! do you suppose it was of the kind that he could
extemporize?" said Miss Brown, pertly.

"Will you let me see it? If you are willing, perhaps I can assist you
in this matter."

All turned toward him with a look of great surprise.

"What do you think of that from the man who sweeps Mr. Ludolph's store?"
asked Miss Brown, in a loud whisper.

"I think the fellow is as presuming as he is ignorant," said Mr. Mellen,
so plainly that all heard him.

"It is not presuming, sir, to offer a kindness where it is needed,"
said Dennis, with dignity, "and my ignorance is not yet proved. The
presumption is all on your part."

Mr. Mellen flushed and was about to answer angrily when Miss Winthrop
said hastily, but in a kindly tone, "But really, Mr. Fleet, much of
our music is new and very difficult."

"But it is written, is it not?" asked Dennis, with a smile.

Christine looked at him in silent wonder. What would he not do next?
But she was sorry that he had spoken, for she foresaw only mortification
for him.

"Oh, give him the music by all means," said Miss Brown, expecting to
enjoy his blundering attempts to sing what was far beyond him. "There,
I will play the accompaniment. It's not the tune of Old Hundred that
you are to sing now, young man, remember."

Dennis glanced over the music, and she began to play a loud, difficult
piece.

He turned to Miss Ludolph, and said: "I fear you have given me the
wrong music. Miss Brown is playing something not written here."

They exchanged significant glances, and Miss Winthrop said, "Play the
right music, Miss Brown."

She struck into the music that Dennis held, but played it so out of
time that no one could sing it. Dennis laid down his sheets on the
piano and said quietly, though with flushed face: "I did not mean to
be obtrusive. You all seemed greatly disappointed at Mr. Archer's
absence and the results, and I thought that in view of the emergency
it would not be presumption to offer my services. But it seems that
I am mistaken."

"No, it is not presumption," said Miss Winthrop. "It was true kindness
and courtesy, which has been ill requited. But you see, to be frank,
Mr. Fleet, we all fear that you do not realize what you are
undertaking."

"Must I of necessity be an ignoramus because, as Miss Brown says, I
sweep a store?"

"Let me play the accompaniment," said Christine, with the decided
manner that few resisted, and she went correctly through the difficult
and brilliant passage. Dennis followed his part with both eye and ear,
and then said, "Perhaps I had better sing my part alone first, and
then you can correct any mistakes."

There was a flutter of expectation, a wink from Mr. Mellen, and an
audible titter from Miss Brown.

"Certainly" said Miss Ludolph, who thought to herself, "If he will
make a fool of himself, he may"; and she played the brief prelude.

Then prompt at the proper moment, true to time and note, Dennis's rich,
powerful tenor voice startled and then entranced them all. He sung the
entire passage through with only such mistakes as resulted from his
nervousness and embarrassment.

At the close, all exclaimed in admiration save Miss Brown, who bit her
lip in ill-concealed vexation, and said, with a half-sneer, "Really,
Mr. What-is-your-name, you are almost equal to Blind Tom."

"You do Blind Tom great injustice," said Dennis. "I read my music."

"But how did you learn to read music in that style?" asked Christine.

"Of course it took me years to do so. But no one could join our musical
club at college who could not read anything placed before him."

"It must have been small and select, then."

"It was."

"How often had you sung that piece before?" asked Miss Brown.

"I never saw it before," answered Dennis.

"Why, it is just out," said Christine.

"Well, ladies and gentlemen, our troubles are over at last," said Miss
Winthrop. "Mr. Fleet seems a good genius--equal to any emergency. If
he can sing that difficult passage, he can sing anything else we have.
We had better run over our parts, and then to our toilets."

One of the colorless young ladies played the accompaniments, her music
making a sort of neutral tint, against which their rich and varied
voices came out with better effect. They sung rapidly through the
programme, Dennis sustaining his parts correctly and with taste. He
could read like the page of an open book any music placed before him,
and years of practice enabled him to sing true and with confidence.
As he sung one thing after another with perfect ease, their wonder
grew; and when, in the final duet with Christine, they both came out
strongly, their splendid, thoroughly-trained voices blending in perfect
harmony, they were rewarded with a spontaneous burst of applause, in
which even Miss Brown was compelled to join.

Christine said nothing, but gave Dennis a quick, grateful glance, which
amply repaid him for the martyrdom she had led him into that afternoon.

He acknowledged the plaudits of the others with a slight, cool bow,
but her thanks with a warm flush of pleasure, and then turned to
complete his arrangements as if nothing had happened. There was not
the slightest show of exultation or of a purpose to demand equality,
in view of what had taken place. His old manner returned, and he acted
as if they were all strangers to him. They exchanged significant,
wondering glances, and after a brief consultation retired to the
dining-room, where coffee and sandwiches were waiting. Miss Winthrop
and Christine sincerely hoped that Miss Brown would invite Dennis out,
but she did not, and since it was her house, as she had said, they
could not interfere. Dennis heard the clatter of knives and forks, and
saw that he was again slighted; but he did not care now. Indeed, in
the light of the sacred emblem before which he had stood, he had learned
patience. He remembered how the rich and great of the world had treated
his Master. Then, too, Christine's kind, grateful glance seemed to
fall upon him like a warm ray of sunlight.

When they had finished and were about to dress for their parts, Miss
Brown put her head within the door and said, "You will find some lunch
in the dining-room."

Dennis paid no heed to her, but he heard Miss Winthrop say: "Really,
Miss Brown, that is too bad after what he has done and shown himself
to be. I wonder that he does not leave the house."

"He will not do that until he is no longer needed," said Christine.

"Then he may as soon as he chooses," said Miss Brown. She was a girl
of violent prejudices, and from her very nature would instinctively
dislike such a person as Dennis Fleet.

"Well," said Miss Winthrop, "he is a gentleman, and he gave the
strongest proof of it when he quietly and modestly withdrew after
achieving a success that would have turned any one's head, and that
ought to have secured him full recognition."

"I told you he was a gentleman," said Christine, briefly, "and I
consider myself a judge;" and then their voices passed out of hearing.

Dennis, having arranged everything so that he could place his hands
readily upon it, found that he had half an hour to spare. He said to
himself: "Miss Ludolph is wrong. I shall leave the house for a short
time. I am a most unromantic individual; for, no matter what or how
I feel, I do get hungry. But I am sure Miss Brown's coffee and
sandwiches would choke me. I have already swallowed too much from her
to care for any more, so here's for a restaurant."

Miss Winthrop hastened through her toilet in order that she might come
down and speak to Dennis while he was alone. She wished to thank him
for his course and his vindication of the truth, and to assure him
that she both respected him and would treat him as a true gentleman.
She went into the back parlor, but he was not there; then she passed
to the dining-room, but found only servants clearing away and preparing
for the grand supper of the evening.

In quick alarm she asked, "Where is Mr. Fleet?"

"Is it the man in the back parlor, mum? He's just after goin' out."

"Oh, girls!" exclaimed Miss Winthrop, rushing upstairs, "Mr. Fleet has
gone."

And there was general consternation.



CHAPTER XXIII

THE REVELATION


The toilets of the young ladies were nearly completed, but, without
waiting to add another touch, all hastened to the place where they had
left Dennis. One of the colorless young ladies appeared upon the scene
with a shawl around her bare shoulders, and a great deal of color on
one cheek, and none on the other as yet; but this slight discrepancy
was unnoted in the dire calamity they feared.

Many were the exclamations and lamentations.

"Why, the people will be here in fifteen minutes," said Miss Winthrop,
in a nervous tremor.

"Did he leave no word?" asked Miss Brown of the servants.

"No word, mum," was the dismal echo.

"What shall we do?" they said, looking at one another with blank faces;
but none could answer.

"I do hate such proud, freakish people. There is no managing or
depending on them," said Miss Brown, spitefully.

Miss Winthrop bit her lips to keep from saying to her hostess what
would be more true than polite. There was a flash of anger in
Christine's dark blue eyes, and she said, coldly: "I imagine that you
have finished the business this time, Miss Brown. But I confess that
I am greatly surprised, for he said I could depend upon him for
to-night."

"So you can," said Dennis, coming in behind them. "I am sorry you have
had this needless alarm. But the fact is, I am a plain, ordinary mortal,
and live in a very material way."

"There was plenty of lunch in the dining-room," said Miss Brown, tartly.
"You need not have gone out and made all this trouble."

"Pardon me for slighting your hospitality," said Dennis, with slight
emphasis on the word.

Again significant glances were exchanged. Miss Brown darted a black
look at Dennis, and left the room.

"I can assure you, ladies," added he, "that all is ready. I can lay
my hand in a moment on whatever is needed. Therefore you need give
yourselves no further anxiety."

There was a general stampede for the dressing-rooms, but Miss Winthrop
lingered. When Dennis was alone she went up to him and frankly gave
her hand, saying: "Mr. Fleet, I wish to thank you for your course
to-day. Between Miss Ludolph's unwitting sermon and your brave and
unexpected vindication of our faith, I hope to become more deserving
of the name of Christian. You are a gentleman, sir, in the truest and
best sense of the word, and as such it will ever be a pleasure to
welcome you at my father's house;" and she gave him her card.

A flush of grateful surprise and pleasure mantled Dennis's face, but
before he could speak she was gone.

The audience were soon thronging in. By half-past eight the performers
were all in the back parlor, and there was a brilliant army of actors
and actresses in varied and fanciful costume, many coming to the house
dressed for their parts. There were gods and goddesses, shepherds and
shepherdesses, angels, crusaders, who would take leave of languishing
ladies, living statuary, and tableaux of all sorts. Dennis was much
shocked at the manner in which ladies exposed themselves in the name
of art and for the sake of effect. Christine seemed perfectly Greek
and pagan in this respect, yet there was that in her manner that forbade
a wanton glance. But, as he observed the carriage of the men around
him, he was more than satisfied that no plea of art could justify the
"style," and felt assured that every pure-minded woman would take the
same view if she realized the truth. Under the name of fashion and art
much is done in society that would be simply monstrous on ordinary
occasions.

The music, as far as possible, was in character with the scenes. The
entertainment went forward with great applause. Every one was radiant;
and the subtile, exhilarating spirit of assured success glowed in every
eye, and gave a richer tone and coloring to everything.

Christine appeared in several and varied characters, and Dennis had
eyes only for her. The others he glanced over critically as the artist
in charge, and then dismissed them from his thoughts; but on Christine
his eyes rested in a spell-bound admiration that both amused and pleased
her. She loved power of every kind, and when she read approval in the
trained and critical eye of Dennis Fleet she knew that all the audience
were applauding.

But Dennis had little time for musing, so great was the strain upon
him to prevent confusion. His voice excited great surprise and applause,
many inquiring vainly who he was. When he and Christine sung together
the audience were perfectly carried away, and stormed and applauded
without stint. Indeed, it seemed that they could not be satisfied. The
call was so urgent that several asked Christine to sing again, and she
did so alone. For ten minutes she held the audience perfectly entranced,
and no one more so than Dennis. Usually she was too cold in all that
she did, but now in her excitement she far surpassed herself, and he
acknowledged that he had never heard such music before.

The very soul of song seemed breathed into her, and every nook and
corner of the house appeared to vibrate with melody. Even the servants
in distant rooms said that it seemed that an angel was singing. After
she ceased, the audience sat spellbound for a moment, and then followed
prolonged thunders of applause, the portly brewer, Mr. Brown himself,
leading off again and again.

"Now let the tenor sing alone," he said, for, though a coarse man, he
was hearty and good-natured.

The audience emphatically echoed his wish, but Dennis as decidedly
shook his head.

Then came a cry, "Miss Ludolph and the tenor again"; and the audience
took it up with a clamor that would not be denied.

Christine looked inquiringly at Dennis, and he replied in a low tone,
"You command me this evening."

Again she thanked him with her eyes, and from a music stand near
chose a magnificent duet from Mendelssohn, in which he must sing several
difficult solos.

"Act your pleasure. I am familiar with it," he said, smiling at the
way she had circumvented him in his refusal to sing alone.

Christine sat down and played her own accompaniment, while Dennis stood
at her side. He determined to do his best and prove that though he
swept a store he could also do something else. Many of the strains
were plaintive, and his deep and unconscious feeling for his fair
companion in song gave to his voice a depth, and at times a pathos,
that both thrilled and _touched_ the heart, and there were not a few wet
eyes in the audience. Unconsciously to himself and all around, he was
singing his love; and even Christine, though much preoccupied with her
part, wondered at the effect upon herself, and recognized the deep
impression made upon the audience.

As the last notes died away the sliding-doors were closed.

Dennis had achieved a greater success than Christine, because, singing
from the heart, he had touched the heart. His applause could be read
in moist eyes and expressive faces rather than in noisy hands. She saw
and understood the result. A sad, disappointed look came into her face,
and she said in a low, plaintive tone, as if it were wrung from her:
"There must be something wrong about me. I fear I shall never reach
true art. I can only win admiration, never touch the heart."

Dennis was about to speak eagerly, when they were overwhelmed by the
rush and confusion attendant on the breaking up of the entertainment.
Part of the older guests at once left for their homes, and the rest
stayed for supper. The parlors were to be cleared as soon as possible
for dancing. Christine was joined by her father, who had sat in the
audience, scarcely believing his eyes, much less his ears. Was that
the young man who was blacking old Schwartz's boots the other day?

His daughter was overwhelmed with compliments, but she took them very
coolly and quietly, for her heart was full of bitterness. That which
her ambitious spirit most desired she could not reach, and to the
degree that she loved art was her disappointment keen. She almost
envied poor Dennis, but she knew not the secret of his success; nor
did he, either, in truth. His old manner returned, and he busied himself
in rapidly packing up everything that he had brought. Mr. Ludolph, who
had received a brief explanation from Christine, came and said, kindly,
"Why, Fleet, you have blossomed out strongly to-day."

"Indeed, sir, I think I have never had a more rigorous pruning," was
the reply.

When the story had been told Mr. Ludolph in full, he understood the
remark. Christine was waiting for the crowd to disperse somewhat, in
order to speak to Dennis also, for her sense of justice and her genuine
admiration impelled her to warm and sincere acknowledgment. But at
that moment Mr. Mellen came in, exclaiming, "Miss Ludolph, they are
all waiting for you to lead the dance, for to you is given this honor
by acclamation, and I plead your promise to be my partner"; and he
carried her off, she meaning to return as soon as possible, and
supposing Dennis would remain.

A moment after, light, airy music was heard in the front parlor,
followed by the rhythmical cadence of light feet and the rustle of
silks like a breeze through a forest.

For some reason as she went away Dennis's heart sank within him.
Reaction followed the strong excitements of the day, and a strange
sense of weariness and despondency crept over him. The gay music in
the other room seemed plaintive and far away, and the tripping feet
sounded like the patter of rain on autumn leaves. The very lights
appeared to burn dimmer, and the color to fade out of his life.
Mechanically he packed up the few remaining articles, to be called for
in the morning, and then leaned heavily against a pillar, intending
to rest a moment before going out into the night alone.

Some one pushed back the sliding-door a little and passed into the
room. Through the opening he caught a glimpse of the gay scene
within. Suddenly Christine appeared floating lightly through the waltz
in her gauzy drapery, as if in a white, misty cloud. Through the narrow
opening she seemed a radiant, living portrait. But her partner whirled her
out of the line of vision. Thus in the mazes of the dance she kept
appearing and disappearing, flashing in sight one moment, leaving a blank
in the crowded room the next.

"So it will ever be, I suppose," he said to himself, bitterly; "chance
and stolen glimpses my only privilege."

Again she appeared, smiling archly on the man whose arm clasped her
waist.

A frown black as night gathered on Dennis's brow; then a sudden pallor
overspread his face to his very lips. The revelation had come! Then
for the first time he knew--knew it as if written in letters of fire
before him--that he loved Christine Ludolph.

At first the knowledge stunned and bewildered him, and his mind was
a confused blur; then as she appeared again, smiling upon and in the
embrace of another man, a sharp sword seemed to pierce his heart.

Dennis was no faint shadow of a man who had frittered away in numberless
flirtations what little heart he originally had. He belonged to the
male species, with something of the pristine vigor of the first man,
who said of the one woman of all the world, "This is now bone of my
bones, and flesh of my flesh"; and one whom he had first seen but a
few short months since now seemed to belong to him by the highest and
divinest right. But could he ever claim his own?

In his morbid, wearied state, there seemed a "great gulf fixed" between
them. For a moment he fairly felt faint and sick, as if he had received
a wound. He was startled by hearing Miss Winthrop say at his side:
"Mr. Fleet, you will not leave yet. I have many friends wishing an
introduction to you. What is the matter? You look as if you were ill."

At her voice he flushed painfully. He was so vividly conscious of his
love himself that he felt that every one else must be able to see it,
and darkness and solitude now seemed a refuge. Recovering himself by
a great effort he said, "Pardon me, I do--I am not well--nothing is
the matter--a little rest and I shall be myself again."

"No wonder. You have been taxed every way beyond mortal endurance, and
I think that it is a shame the way you have been treated. Pray do not
judge Chicago society altogether by what you have seen here. Let me
get you some refreshment, and then I will acquaint you with some people
who can recognize a gentleman when they meet him."

"No, Miss Winthrop," said Dennis, courteously but firmly; "you are not
in your own home, and by staying I should not be accepting your
hospitality. I appreciate your kindness deeply, and thank your friends
who have expressed a willingness to make my acquaintance. It would not
be right to stay longer in this house than is necessary. I do not feel
resentful. I have no room in my memory for Miss Brown and her actions,
but at the same time self-respect requires that I go at once;" and he
took his hat.

"I am not surprised that you feel as you do. But give me the pleasure
of welcoming you at my own home as soon as possible," she said, and
gave her hand to him in parting.

Dennis took it respectfully and bowed low, saying, "I shall not
willingly deny myself so great a pleasure." and was gone.

Christine came in a few moments later, and found only servants clearing
the room for dancing.

"Where is Mr. Fleet?" she asked.

"Gone, mum."

"Yes," said Miss Winthrop, coming in at the same time; "he has gone
now in very truth; and I don't think the power exists that could lead
him to darken these doors again. I doubt if I ever come myself. I never
saw a clearer instance of--of--well--_shoddy_."

"It seems to me that you Christians are as proud as any of us."

"Isn't there a difference between pride and self-respect? I am satisfied
that if Miss Brown were in trouble, or poor, Mr. Fleet would be the
first to help her. Oh, Christine, we have treated him shamefully!"

"You seem to take a wonderful interest in this unknown knight in rusty
armor." (Dennis's dress was decidedly threadbare.)

"I do," said the impulsive girl, frankly, "because he is wonderfully
interesting. What man of all the large audience present to-night could
have acted the part he did? I am satisfied that that man is by birth
and education a gentleman. Are you ready, with your aristocratic
notions, to recognize chiefly Miss Brown's title to position? What
could her coat-of-arms be but the dollar symbol and the beer-barrel?"

"Come, remember she is our hostess."

"You are right; I should not speak so here; but my indignation gets
the better of me."

"Would you invite him to your house?"

"Certainly. I have asked him; and what is more, he has promised to
come. Supposing that he is poor, are not many of your noblemen as poor
as poverty? My parlors shall be haunted only by men of ability and
character."

"You are not going to shut out this little heathen," said Christine,
putting her arm about her friend.

"Never!" said Miss Winthrop, returning the embrace with double warmth.
Then she added, sadly: "You are not an unbeliever from conviction and
knowledge, Christine, but from training and association. While I admire
and honor your father as a splendid and gifted man, I regret his and
your scepticism more deeply than you can ever know."

"Well, Susie," said Christine, with a smile, "if they shut out such
as you from your Paradise, I do not wish to go there."

"If, with my clear knowledge of the conditions of entrance, I _shut
myself out_, I shall have no right to complain," said Miss Winthrop,
sadly.

But the absence of two such belles could not long remain unnoted; and,
having been discovered, they were pounced upon by half a dozen young
gentlemen, clamorous for the honor of their hands in the "German."

In spite of herself, Christine was vexed and annoyed. Dennis had seemed,
in his obscurity, a nice little bit of personal property, that she
could use and order about as she pleased. He had been so subservient
and eager to do her will, that she had never thought of him otherwise
than as her "humble servant." But now her own hand had suddenly given
him the role of a fine gentleman. Christine was too logical to think
of continuing to order about a man who could sing Mendelssohn's music
as Dennis had done.

She congratulated herself that the arrangement of the store was nearly
completed, and that only one show-room was unfinished.

"I suppose he will be very dignified when we meet again," she thought
to herself. "I should not be at all surprised if my impulsive little
friend Susie loses her heart to him. Well, I suppose she can to any
one she chooses. As for me, rich or poor, stupid or gifted, the men
of this land are all alike;" and with a half-sigh she plunged resolutely
into the gayeties of the evening, as if to escape from herself.



CHAPTER XXIV

NIGHT THOUGHTS


Dennis passed out of the heavy, massive entrance to the wealthy brewer's
mansion with a sense of relief as if escaping from prison. The duskiness
and solitude of the street seemed a grateful refuge, and the night
wind was to his flushed face like a cool hand laid on a feverish brow.
He was indeed glad to be alone, for his was one of those deep, earnest
natures that cannot rush to the world in garrulous confidence when
disturbed and perplexed. There are many sincere but shallow people who
must tell of and talk away every passing emotion. Not of the abundance
of their hearts, for abundance there is not, but of the uppermost thing
in their hearts their mouths must speak, even though the subjects be
of the delicate nature that would naturally be hidden. Such mental
constitutions are at least healthful. Concealed trouble never preys
upon them like the canker in the bud. Everything comes to the surface
and is thrown off.

But at first Dennis scarcely dared to recognize the truth himself, and
the thought of telling even his mother was repugnant. For half an hour
he walked the streets in a sort of stupor. He was conscious only of
a heavy, aching heart and a wearied, confused brain. All the time,
however, he knew an event had occurred that must for good or evil
affect his entire existence; but he shrank with nervous dread from
grappling with the problem. As the cold air refreshed and revived him,
his strong, practical mind took up the question almost without volition,
and by reason of his morbid, wearied state, only the dark and
discouraging side was presented. The awakening to his love was a very
different thing to Dennis, and to the majority in this troubled world,
from the blissful consciousness of Adam when for the first time he saw
the fair being whom he might woo at his leisure, amid embowering roses,
without fear or thought of a rival.

To Dennis the fact of his love, so far from promising to be the source
of delightful romance and enchantment, clearly showed itself to be the
hardest and most practical question of a life full of such questions.
In his strong and growing excitement he spoke to himself as to a second
person: "Oh, I see it all now. Poor, blind fool that I was, to think
that by coveting and securing every possible moment in her presence
I was only learning to love art! As I saw her to-night, so radiant and
beautiful, and yet in the embrace of another man, and that man evidently
an ardent admirer, what was art to me? As well might a starving man
seek to satisfy himself by wandering through an old Greek temple as
for me to turn to art alone. One crumb of warm, manifested love from
her would be worth more than all the cold, abstract beauty in the
universe. And yet what chance have I? What can I hope for more than
a passing thought and a little kindly, condescending interest? Clerk
and man-of-all-work in a store, poor and heavily burdened, the idea
of my loving one of the most wealthy, admired, and aristocratic ladies
in Chicago! It is all very well in story-books for peasants to fall
in love with princesses, but in practical Chicago the fact of my
attachment to Miss Ludolph would be regarded as one of the richest
jokes of the season, and by Mr. Ludolph as such a proof of rusticity
and folly as would at once secure my return to pastoral life."

Then hope whispered, "But you can achieve position and wealth as others
have done, and then can speak your mind from the standpoint of
equality."

But Dennis was in a mood to see only the hopeless side that night, and
exclaimed almost aloud: "Nonsense! Can it be even imagined that she,
besieged by the most gifted and rich of the city, will wait for a poor
unknown admirer? Mr. Mellen, I understand, approaches her from every
vantage-ground save that of a noble character; but in the fashionable
world how little thought is given to this draw back!" and in his
perturbation he strode rapidly and aimlessly on, finding some relief
in mere physical activity.

Suddenly his hasty steps ceased, and even in the dusk of the street
his face gleamed out distinctly, so great was its pallor. Like a ray
of light, a passage from the Word of God revealed to him his situation
in a new aspect. It seemed to him almost that some one had whispered
the words in his ear, so distinctly did they present themselves--"Be
ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers."

Slowly and painfully he said to himself, as if recognizing the most
hopeless barrier that had yet been dwelt upon, "Christine Ludolph is
an infidel."

Not only the voice of reason, and of the practical world, but also the
voice of God seemed to forbid his love; and the conviction that he
must give it all up became a clear as it was painful. The poor fellow
leaned his head against the shaggy bark of an elm in a shadowy square
which the street-lamps could but faintly penetrate. The night wind
swayed the budding branches of the great tree, and they sighed over
him as if in sympathy.

The struggle within his soul was indeed bitter, for, though thus far
he had spoken hopelessly, he had not been altogether hopeless; but now
that conscience raised its impassable wall high as heaven, which he
must not break through, his pain was so great as to almost unman him,
and such tears as only men can weep fell from his eyes. In anguish he
exclaimed, "That which might have been the chief blessing of life has
become my greatest misfortune."

Above him the gale caused two fraying limbs to appear to moan in echo
of the suffering beneath.

"This then must be the end of my prayers in her behalf--my ardent
hope and purpose to lead her to the truth--she to walk through honored,
sunny paths to everlasting shame and night, and I through dark and
painful ways to light and peace, if in this bitter test I remain
faithful. Surely there _is_ much to try one's faith. And yet it must be
so as far as human foresight can judge."

Then a great pity for her swelled his heart, for he felt that her case
was the saddest after all, and his tears flowed faster than ever.

Human voices now startled him--some late revellers passing homeward.
The tears and emotion, of which we never think of being ashamed when
alone with Nature and its Author, he dreaded to have seen by his
fellows, and hastily wiping his eyes, he slunk into the deeper shadow
of the tree, and they passed on. Then, an old trait asserting itself,
he condemned his own weakness. Stepping from the sheltering trunk
against which he was leaning, he stood strong and erect.

The winds were hushed as if expectant in the branches above.

"Dennis Fleet," he said, "you must put your foot on this folly here
and now."

He bared his head and looked upward.

"O God," he said, solemnly, "if this is contrary to Thy will--Thy will
be done."

He paused a moment reverently, and then turned on his heel and strode
resolutely homeward.

A gust of wind crashed the branches overhead together like the clash
of cymbals in victory.

The early spring dawn was tingeing the eastern horizon before the gay
revel ceased and the mansion of the rich brewer was darkened. All the
long night, light, airy music had caused late passers-by to pause a
moment to listen, and to pity or envy the throng within, as disposition
dictated. Mr. Brown was a man who prided himself on lavish and rather
coarse hospitality. A table groaning under costly dishes and every
variety of liquor was the crowning feature, the blissful climax of all
his entertainments; and society from its highest circles furnished an
abundance of anxious candidates for his suppers, who ate and criticised,
drank to and disparaged, their plebeian host.

Mrs. Brown was heavy in every sense of the word, and with her huge
person draped with acres of silk, and festooned with miles of
point-lace, she waddled about and smiled and nodded good-naturedly at
everybody and everything.

It was just the place for a fashionable revel, where the gross, repulsive
features of coarse excess are veiled and masked somewhat by
the glamour of outward courtesy and good-breeding.

At first Christine entered into the dance with great zest and a decided
sense of relief. She was disappointed and out of sorts with herself.
Again she had failed in the object of her intense ambition, and though
conscious that, through the excitement of the occasion, she had sung
better than ever before, yet she plainly saw in the different results
of her singing and that of Dennis Fleet that there was a depth in the
human heart which she could not reach. She could secure only admiration,
superficial applause. The sphere of the true artist who can touch and
sway the popular heart seemed beyond her ability. By voice or pencil
she had never yet attained it. She had too much mind to mistake the
character of the admiration she excited, and was far too ambitious to
be satisfied with the mere praise bestowed on a highly accomplished
girl. She aspired, determined, to be among the first, and to be a
second-rate imitator in the world of art was to her the agony of a
disappointed life. And yet to imitate with accuracy and skill, not
with sympathy, was the only power she had as yet developed. She saw
the limitations of her success more clearly than did any one else, and
chafed bitterly at the invisible bounds she could not pass.

The excitement of the dance enabled her to banish thoughts that were
both painful and humiliating. Moreover, to a nature so active and full
of physical vigor, the swift, grace motion was a source of keen
enjoyment.

But when after supper many of the ladies were silly, and the gentlemen
were either stupid or excited, according to the action of the "invisible
spirit of wine" upon their several constitutions--when after many
glasses of champagne Mr. Mellen began to effervesce in frothy
sentimentality and a style of love-making simply nauseating to one of
Christine's nature--she looked around for her father in order to escape
from the scenes that were becoming revolting.

Though of earth only in all the sources of her life and hopes, she was
not earthy. If her spirit could not soar and sing in the sky, it also
could not grovel in the mire of gross materiality. Some little time,
therefore, before the company broke up, on the plea of not feeling
well she lured her father away from his wine and cigars and a knot of
gentlemen who were beginning to talk a little incoherently. Making
their adieux amid many protestations against their early departure,
they drove homeward.

"How did you enjoy yourself?" asked her father.

"Very much in the early part of the evening, not at all in the latter
part. To sum up, I am disgusted with Mr. Mellen and these Browns in
general, and myself in particular."

"What is the matter with Mr. Mellen? I understand that the intriguing
mammas consider him the largest game in the city."

"When hunting degenerates into the chase and capture of insects, you
may style him game. Between his champagne and silly love-making, he
was as bad as a dose of ipecac."

Christine spoke freely to her father of her admirers, usually making
them the themes of satire and jest.

"And what is the trouble with our entertainers?"

"I am sorry to speak so of any one whose hospitality I have accepted,
but unless it is your wish I hope never to accept it again. They all
smell of their beer. Everything is so coarse, lavish, and ostentatious.
They tell you as through a brazen trumpet on every side, 'We are rich.'"
"They give magnificent suppers," said Mr. Ludolph, in apology.

"More correctly, the French cook they employ gives them. I do not
object to the nicest of suppers, but prefer that the Browns be not on
the _carte de menu_. From the moment our artistic programme ended,
and the entertainment fell into their hands, it began to degenerate
into an orgy. Nothing but the instinctive restraints of good-breeding
prevents such occasions from ending in a drunken revel."

"You are severe. Mr. Brown's social effort is not a bad type of the
entertainments that prevail in fashionable life."

"Well, it may be true, but they never seemed to me so lacking in good
taste and refinement before. Wait till we dispense choice viands and
wines to choicer spirits in our own land, and I will guarantee a
marvellously wide difference. Then the eye, the ear, the mind, shall
be feasted, as well as the lower sense."

"Well, I do not see why you should be disgusted with yourself. I am
sure that you covered yourself with glory, and were the belle of the
occasion."

"That is no great honor, considering the occasion. Father, strange as
it may seem to you, I envied your man-of-all-work to-night. Did you
not mark the effect of his singing?"

"Yes, and felt it in a way that I cannot explain to myself. His tones
seemed to thrill, and stir my very heart. I have not been so affected
by music for years. At first I thought it was surprise at hearing him
sing at all, but I soon found that it was something in the music
itself."

"And that something I fear I can never grasp--never attain."

"Why, my dear, they applauded you to the echo."

"I would rather see one moist eye as the tribute to my singing than
to be deafened by noisy applause. I fear I shall never reach high art.
Men's hearts sleep when I do my best."

"I think you are slightly mistaken there, judging from your train of
admirers," said Mr. Ludolph, turning off a disagreeable subject with
a jest. The shrewd man of the world guessed the secret of her failure.
She herself must feel, before she could touch feeling. But he had
systematically sought to chill and benumb her nature, meaning it to
awake at just the time, and under just the circumstances, that should
accord with his controlling ambition. Then reverting to Dennis, he
continued: "It won't answer for Fleet to sweep the store any longer
after the part he played to-night. Indeed, I doubt if he would be
willing to. Not only he, but the world will know that he is capable
of better things. What has occurred will awaken inquiry, and may soon
secure him good business offers. I do not intend to part readily with
so capable a young fellow. He does well whatever is required, and
therefore I shall promote him as fast as is prudent. I think I can
make him of great use to me."

"That is another thing that provokes me," said Christine. "Only
yesterday morning he seemed such a useful, humble creature, and last
evening through my own folly he developed into a fine gentleman; and
I shall have to say, 'By your leave, sir'; 'Will you please do
this'?--If I dare ask anything at all."

"I am not so sure of that," said her father. "My impression is that
Fleet has too much good sense to put on airs in the store. But I will
give him more congenial work; and as one of the young gentleman clerks,
we can ask him up now and then to sing with us. I should much enjoy
trying some of our German music with him."



CHAPTER XXV

DARKNESS


The next morning Christine did not appear at the late breakfast at
which her father with contracted brow and capricious appetite sat
alone. Among the other unexpected results of the preceding day she had
taken a very severe cold, and this, with the reaction from fatigue and
excitement, caused her to feel so seriously ill that she found it
impossible to rise. Her father looked at her, and was alarmed; for her
cheeks were flushed with fever, her head was aching sadly, and she
appeared as if threatened with one of those dangerous diseases whose
earlier symptoms are so obscure and yet so much alike. She tried to
smile, but her lip quivered, and she turned her face to the wall.

The philosophy of Mr. Ludolph and his daughter was evidently adapted
to fair weather and smooth sailing. Sickness, disease, and the possible
results, were things that both dreaded more than they ever confessed
to each other. It was most natural that they should, for only in health
or life could they enjoy or hope for anything. By their own belief
their horizon was narrowed down to time and earth, and they could look
for nothing beyond. In Mr. Ludolph's imperious, resolute nature,
sickness always awakened anger as well as anxiety. It seemed like an
enemy threatening his dearest hopes and most cherished ambition,
therefore the heavy frown upon his brow as he pushed away the scarcely
tasted breakfast.

To Christine the thought of death was simply horrible, and with the
whole strength of her will she ever sought to banish it. To her it
meant corruption, dust, nothingness. With a few drawbacks she had
enjoyed life abundantly, and she clung to it with the tenacity of one
who believed it was all. With the exception of some slight passing
indisposition, both she and her father had been seldom ill; and for
a number of years now they had voyaged on over smooth, sunny seas of
prosperity.

Christine's sudden prostration on the morning following the
entertainment was a painful surprise to both.

"I will have Dr. Arten call at once," he said, at parting, "and will
come up from the store early in the day to see you;" and Christine was
left alone with her French maid.

Her mind was too clouded and disturbed by fever to think coherently,
and yet a vague sense of danger--trouble--oppressed her, and while she
lay in a half-unconscious state between sleeping and waking, a thousand
fantastic visions presented themselves. But in them all the fiery Cross
and Dennis Fleet took some part. At times the Cross seemed to blaze
and threaten to burn her to a cinder, while he stood by with stern,
accusing face. The light from the Cross made him luminous also, and
the glare was so terrible that she would start up with a cry of fear.
Again, they would both recede till in the far distance they shone like
a faint star, and then the black darkness that gathered round her was
more dreadful than the light, and with her eyes closed she would reach
out her hot hands for the light to return. Once or twice it shone upon
her with soft, mellow light, and Dennis stood pointing to it, pleading
so earnestly and tenderly that tears gathered in her eyes. Then all
was again blurred and distorted.

Within an hour after her father left, she found Dr. Arten feeling her
pulse and examining her symptoms. With a great effort she roused
herself, and, looking at the doctor with an eager inquiring face, said;
"Doctor, tell me the truth. What is the matter?"

He tried to smile and evade her question, but she would not let him.

"Well, really, Miss Ludolph," he said, "we can hardly tell yet what
is the matter. You have evidently caught a very severe cold, and I
hope that is all. When I come this evening I may be able to speak more
definitely. In the meantime I will give you something to soothe and
reduce your fever!"

The French maid followed the doctor out, leaving the door ajar in her
haste, and in an audible whisper said: "I say, docteur, is it not ze
smallpox? Zere is so much around. Tell me true, for I must leave zis
very minute."

"Hush, you fool!" said the doctor, and they passed out of hearing.
A sickening dread made Christine's heart almost stand still. When the
woman returned her mistress watched her most narrowly and asked, "What
did the doctor say to you?"

The maid replied in French that he had said she must be still and not
talk.

"But you asked him if I had the smallpox. What did he say?"

"Ah, mademoiselle, you make one grand meestake. I ask for a small box
to keep your medicine in, zat it make no smell."

From the woman's lie, and from the fact that she was redolent with
camphor, and that she kept as far away as possible, near the windows,
Christine gathered a most painful confirmation of her fears. For a
time she lay almost paralyzed by dread.

Then as the medicine relieved her of fever and unclouded her mind,
thought and conscience awoke with terrible and resistless power. As
never before she realized what cold, dark depths were just beneath her
gay, pleasure-loving life, and how suddenly skies radiant with the
richer promise of the future could become black and threatening.
Never had earthly life seemed so attractive, never had her own prospects
seemed so brilliant, and her hopes of fame, wealth, and happiness in
her future German villa more dazzling, than now when they stood out
against the dark background of her fears.

"If, instead of going forward to all this delight, I become an object
of terror and loathing even before I die, and something that must be
hidden out of sight as soon as possible after, what conceivable fate
could be worse? That such a thing is possible proves this to be a
dreadful and defective world, with all its sources of pleasure. Surely
if there were a God he would banish such horrible evils.

"There is no God--there can't be any--at least none such as the Bible
reveals. How often I have said this to myself! how often my father has
said it to me! and yet the thought of Him torments me often even when
well.

"Why does this thought come so persistently now? I settled it long
ago, under father's proof, that I did not believe in Him or the
superstitions connected with His name. Why doesn't the question stay
settled? Other superstitions do not trouble me. Why should that Cross
continually haunt me? Why should the _man_ who died thereon have the
power to be continually speaking to me through His words that I have
read? I believe in Socrates as much as I do in Him, and yet I recall the
Greek sage's words with an effort, and cannot escape from the
Nazarene's. All is mystery and chaos and danger. We human creatures
are like frothy bubbles that glisten and dance for a moment on a swift
black tide that seems flowing forever, and yet nowhere."

Then her thoughts recurred to Dennis.

"That young Fleet seemed to believe implicitly in what he said
yesterday, and he lives up to what he believes. I would give the world
for his delusion, were it only for its comforting and sustaining power
for this life. If he were very ill, he would be imagining himself on
the threshold of some sort of heaven or paradise, and would be calm
and perhaps even happy, while I am so supremely wretched I find that
I have nothing--absolutely nothing to sustain me--not even the memory
of good deeds. I have not even lived the unselfish life that Socrates
recommends, much less the holy life of the Bible. I have pleased myself.
Well, believing as I have been taught, that seemed the most sensible
course. Why doesn't it seem so now?"

Thus tossed on a sea of uncertainty and fear, Christine, in darkness
and weakness, grappled with those mighty questions which only He can
put to rest who said, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in
God, believe also in Me."

Dennis walked resolutely home. He felt himself adamant in his stern
resolution. He at least had the deathlike peace that follows decision.
The agony of conflict was over for a time, and, as he thought, forever.

From mere exhaustion he slept heavily, and on the following day with
white face and compressed lips entered on his work. And work it now
became indeed; for the old glamour was all gone, and life looked as
practical and hard as the stones of the street. Even the pictures on
the walls seemed to him but things for sale, representing money values;
and money appeared the beginning, middle, and ending of the world's
creed. Like the unsubstantial mirage had vanished the beautiful, happy
life of the past few weeks. Around him were the rocks and sands of the
desert, through which he must toil with weary, bleeding feet till he
reached the land watered by the river of life. Reason and duty, as he
believed, forbade the existence of this foolish passion, and he must
and would destroy it; but in his anguish he felt as if he had resolved
to torture himself to death.

"And she will never know what I suffer--never know the wealth of heart
I have lavished upon her. I am glad she will not, for the knowledge
of my love would make no more impression on her cold, proud nature
than a drop of warm summer rain falling on the brow of yonder marble
statue of Diana. She would only be amazed at my presumption. She feels
that she shines down on me like the sun, and that I am a poor little
satellite that she could blot out altogether by causing her father to
turn me into the street again, which undoubtedly would be done should
I reveal my feelings."

And he was right.

"Come!" said he to himself, breaking from his painful revery, "no
weakness! You have your way to make in the world, and your work to do.
God will help you, and no creature shall hinder you;" and he plunged
resolutely into his duties.

Mr. Ludolph was late in reaching the store that morning, and Dennis
found himself secretly hoping, in spite of himself, that Christine
would accompany him. His will and heart were now in distinct opposition,
and the latter would not obey orders.

When Mr. Ludolph appeared, it was with a frowning, clouded brow. Without
a word he passed into his private office, but seemed so restless and
troubled in his manner that Dennis felt something was wrong. Why should
he take such an interest in this man? Why should he care? The other
clerks did not: not one save himself had noticed anything different.
Poor Dennis was to learn that he had a disease of many and varied
symptoms.

After something over an hour had passed, Mr. Ludolph started from his
desk, took his hat and cane as with the purpose of going out--a very
unusual thing at that time. But, as he was passing down the store, he
met Dr. Arten opposite Dennis's counter.

"Well?" said Mr. Ludolph, impatiently.

"I will call again this evening," said the doctor, prudently
non-committal. "Your daughter has caught a very severe cold. I hope
it is nothing more than a cold, but so many troublesome diseases
commence with these obscure symptoms that we have to wait till further
developments reveal the true nature of the case."

"You doctors make no headway in banishing disease from the world,"
snarled Mr. Ludolph. "There is smallpox around, is there not?"

"Yes, I am sorry to say there is a great deal of it, but if you remember
the history of that one disease, I think you will admit your remark
to be unfair."

"I beg your pardon, doctor, but I am anxious, and all out of sorts,
as I ever am in sickness" (when affecting himself--he might justly
have added). "It seems such a senseless, useless evil in the world.
The idea of you Christians believing a benevolent Being rules the
world, and that He permits smallpox. Can it be possible that my daughter
has contracted this loathsome horror?" "Well, it is possible, but I
hope not at all probable. We doctors are compelled to look at the
practical rather than the theological side of the question. It is
possible for any one to have this disease. Has your daughter been
vaccinated?"

"No!" growled Mr. Ludolph. "I don't believe in vaccination. It is as
apt to vitiate the system as to protect it."

"I am sorry for that," said the doctor, looking grave.

Keen Mr. Ludolph saw and read his physician's expression accurately.
Seizing his hand he said, eagerly: "Pardon me, doctor; you can
understand a father's feelings. Watch this case night and day. Spare
no pains, and be assured I will regret no expense"; and he hastened
away to his daughter's bedside.

No prisoner at the bar ever listened with more interest than Dennis.
If it had been his own case they were discussing it would not have
touched him half so nearly.

But a moment before, Christine in her pride, wealth, and beauty seemed
destined to go through life as in a triumphant march. Now he saw her
to be a weak human creature, threatened as sorely as the poorest and
humblest. Her glorious beauty, even her life, might pass away in Le
Grand Hotel as surely as in a tenement house. The very thought thrilled
him with fear. Then a great pity rushed into his soul like a tide,
sweeping everything before it. His stern resolution to stifle and
trample upon his love melted like a snow-wreath, and every interest
of life centred in the darkened room where Christine tossed and moaned
in the deeper darkness of uncertainty and doubt. The longing to go to
her with comfort and help was so intense that it required the utmost
effort of reason and will to prevent such rash action. He trembled at
himself--at the strength of his feelings--and saw that though he might
control outward action his heart had gone from him beyond remedy, and
that his love, so long unrecognized, was now like the principal source
of the Jordan, that springs from the earth a full-grown river, and
that he could not help it.

Mr. Ludolph found little comfort at his daughter's bedside. Sending
her maid away, who was glad to go, Christine told what she had
overheard. Smallpox seemed in the mind of every one, but this was not
strange since it was so prevalent in the city.

"Oh, father, what shall I do--what shall I do, if this should be the
case? Janette will leave me, and there will be no one to take care of
me. I know I shall die, and I might as well as to be made hideous by
this horrible disease. No, I would rather live, on any terms; for to
die is to be nothing. Oh, father, are you sure the Bible is all false?
There is so much in it to comfort the sick. If I could only believe
in such a life hereafter as Susie Winthrop does, I would as soon die
as not."

"No," said Mr. Ludolph, firmly, "your only chance is to get well. There
is no use in deceiving ourselves. I have secured the services of the
most skilful of physicians, and will see that you have every attention.
So try to be as calm as possible, and co-operate with every effort to
baffle and banish disease. After all it may be nothing more than a
severe cold."

So then in very truth this world was all. In bitterness and dread she
realized how slight was her hold upon it. To her healthful body pain
was a rare experience, but now her head and every bone ached, and the
slightest movement caused increased suffering. But her mental trouble
was by far the greatest. Often she murmured to herself, "Oh, that I
had been trained to the grossest superstitions, so that I might not
look down into this black bottomless gulf that unbelief opens at my
feet!" and she tossed and moaned most piteously.

Mr. Ludolph returned to the store in an exceedingly worried and anxious
state. As he entered he caught Dennis's eager, questioning gaze, and
a thought struck him: "Perhaps this young fellow, through his mission
school, may know of some good, trustworthy woman who would act as
nurse"; and coming to Dennis he explained the situation, and then asked
if he knew of any one, or could find a suitable person.

Dennis listened eagerly, thought a moment, and then said, with a flushed
face and in a low tone: "I think my mother would be willing to come.
She has had the smallpox and would not be afraid."

"But would she be willing?"

"I think I could persuade her," said Dennis.

Mr. Ludolph thought a moment, then said: "I think she would be the one
of all others, for she must be very much of a lady, and I would not
like to put my daughter in charge of a common, coarse woman. You may
rest assured that I would reward her liberally."

"She would not come for money, sir."

"What then?"

Dennis flushed how more deeply than before. He had been speaking for
his mother from his own point of view, and now he hardly knew what to
say, for he was not good at evasion. But he told the truth, if not all
the truth. "We feel very grateful to you for the means of support, and
a chance in life when the world was very dark. You have since promoted
me--"

"Nonsense!" said Mr. Ludolph, somewhat touched, though; "you have
earned every dollar you have received, and your coming has been of
advantage to me also. But if your mother will meet this need, should
it occur, neither of you will have cause to regret it"; and he passed
on to his office, but soon after went away again and did not return
that day.

To Dennis the hours dragged on like years, full of suspense and mental
tumult. At times he would bow his head behind his counter, and pray
in tearful fervor for the object of his constant thought. The day was
rainy, and the store empty of customers, for which he was most thankful,
as he would have made the poorest of salesmen. At last the hour for
closing arrived, and he was left to himself. In the solitude of his
own room he once more looked the situation fairly in the face. With
his head bowed in his hands he reflected: "Last night I _thought_
to tear this love from my heart, but to-night I find that this would
be to tear out my heart itself. I cannot do it. It is my strongest
conviction that I can no more stop loving her than I can stop living.
Unconsciously this love has grown until now it is my master, and it
is folly to make any more resolves, only to be as weak as water when
I least expect it. What shall I do?"

Motionless, unconscious of the lapse of time, he remained hour after
hour absorbed in painful thought. Circumstances, reason, the Bible,
all seemed to frown upon his love; but, though it appeared to be
hopeless, his whole nature revolted against the idea of its being
wrong.

"It cannot be wrong to love, purely and unselfishly," he muttered.
"Such love as mine seems to carry its own conviction of right with
it--an inner consciousness that seems so strong and certain as to be
beyond argument--beyond everything; and yet if God's Word is against
it I must be wrong, and my heart is misleading me."

Again in unbroken silence an hour passed away. Then the thought struck
him: "It is not contrary to God's action! He so loved the
world--unbelievers and all--as to give His best and dearest! Can it
be wrong to be God-like?"

"It is not wise, it is not safe," prudence whispered, "to give a
worldly, unbelieving spirit the power to influence you that she will
have who is first in your heart. What true congeniality can there be?
What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? or what part
hath he that believeth with an infidel? As the most intimate friend
and companion in life, you should seek one who truly can be _one_
with you in all things, and most assuredly so in this vital respect."

"Ah," thought Dennis, "that would have been very good advice to give
awhile ago. If from the first I could have understood my feelings and
danger, I might have steeled my heart against the influences that have
brought me to this. But the mischief is done. The words that now, in
spite of myself, continually run in my mind, are, 'What God hath joined
together let not man put asunder.' It seems as if some resistless power
had joined my soul to hers, and I find no strength within myself to
break the bond. I am not usually irresolute; I think I have principle;
and yet I feel that I should not dare make the most solemn vow against
this love. I should be all the more weak because conscience does not
condemn me. It seems to have a light that reason and knowledge know
not of. And yet I wish I could be more sure. I wish I could say to
myself, I may be loving hopelessly, but not sinfully. I would take the
risk. Indeed I cannot help taking it. Oh, that I could find light,
clear and unmistakable!"

He rose, turned up his light, and opened the Pauline precepts. These
words struck his eyes, "Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be
loosed." Then, above, the words, "How knowest thou, O man, whether
thou shalt save thy wife, even though she be an unbeliever?"

"Am I not bound--bound by that which is God's link in the chain? It
does not seem as if the legal contract could change or strengthen my
feelings materially, and while honoring the inviolable rite of marriage,
which is God's law and society's safety, I know that nothing can more
surely bind me to her, so that the spirit, the vital part of the
passage, applies to me. Then if through this love I could save her--if
by prayer and effort I could bring her feet into the paths of life--I
should feel repaid for all that I could possibly suffer. She may slight
my human love with its human consummation, but God will not let a life
of prayer and true love be wasted, and she may learn here, or know
hereafter, that though the world laid many rich gifts at her feet I
brought the best of all."

He looked out, and saw that the early spring dawn was tingeing the
horizon.

"A good omen," he said aloud. "Perhaps the night of this trouble is
past, and the dawn is coming. I am convinced that it is not wrong; and
I am resolved to make the almost desperate attempt. A mysterious hope,
coming from I know not where or what, seems to beckon and encourage
me forward."

Dennis was young.



CHAPTER XXVI

MISS LUDOLPH COMMITS A THEFT


Mr. Ludolph on his return found Christine suffering from a nervous
horror of the smallpox. From the indiscreet and callous maid, intent
on her own safety, and preparing to palliate the cowardice of her
flight should her fears prove true, Christine learned that the city
was full of this loathsome disease, and her feelings were harrowed by
exaggerated instances of its virulent and contagious character.

"But you will surely stay with me," pleaded Christine.

"Mademoiselle could not expect zat."

"Heartless!" muttered Christine. Then she said: "Won't you go for Susie
Winthrop? Oh, how I would like to see her now!"

"She vould not come; no von vould come who knew."

Christine wrung her hands and cried, "Oh, I shall die alone and deserted
of all!"

"No, you shall not," said her father, entering at that moment; "so do
not give way, my dear.--Leave the room, stupid!" (to the maid, who
again gladly escaped, resolving not to re-enter till the case was
decided). "I have secured the best of physicians, and the best of
nurses, and by to-night or to-morrow morning we shall know about what
to expect. I cannot help hoping still that it is only a severe cold."
And he told her of Dennis's offer of his mother's services.

"I am sure I should like her, for somehow I picture to myself a kind,
motherly person. What useful creatures those Fleets are! They are on
hand in emergencies when one so needs help. It seemed very nice to
have young Fleet my humble servant; but really, father, he
deserves promotion."

"He shall have it, and I doubt not will be just as ready to do your
bidding as ever. It is only commonplace people whose heads are turned
by a little prosperity. Fleet knew he was a gentleman before he came
to the store."

"Father, if I should have the smallpox and live, would my beaut--would
I become a fright?"

"Not necessarily. Let us hope for the best. Make the most of the world,
and never endure evils till they come, are my maxims. Half of suffering
is anticipation of possible or probable evil."

"Father," said Christine, abruptly, "I believe you are right, you
_must_ be right, and have given me the best comfort and hope that
truthfully can be given. But this is a strange, cruel world. We seem
the sport of circumstances, the victims of hard, remorseless laws. One
bad person can frightfully injure another person" (a spasm distorted
her father's face). "What accidents may occur! Worst of all are those
horrible, subtle, contagious diseases which, none can see or
guard against! Then to suffer, die, corrupt--faugh! To what a disgusting
end, to what a lame and impotent conclusion, does the noble creature,
man, come! My whole nature revolts at it. For instance, here am I a
young girl, capable of the highest enjoyment, with everything to live
for, and lured forward by the highest hopes and expectations; and yet,
in spite of all the safeguards you can place around me, my path is in
the midst of dangers, and now perhaps I am to be rendered hideous, if
not killed outright, by a disease the very thought of which fills me
with loathing. What I fear _has_ happened, and may happen again. And
what compensation is there for it all?--what can enable one to bear it
all? Oh, that I could believe in a God and a future happier life!"

"And what kind of a God would He be who, having the power to prevent,
permits, or orders, as the Bible teaches, all these evils? I am a man
of the world, and pretend to nothing saint-like or chivalric, but do
you think I am capable of going to Mr. Winthrop and striking down his
daughter Susie with a loathsome disease? And yet if a minister or
priest should come here he would begin to talk about the mysterious
providence, and submission to God's will. If I am to have a God, I
want one at least better than myself."

"You _must_ be right," said Christine, with a weary moan. "There is no
God, and if there were, in view of what you say, I could only hate and
fear Him. How chaotic the world is! But it is hard." After a moment she
added, shudderingly: "_It is horrible_. I did not think of these things
when well."

"Get well and forget them again, my dear. It is the best you can do."

"If I get well," said Christine, almost fiercely, "I shall get the
most I can out of life, cost what it may;" and she turned her face to
the wall.

A logical result of his teaching, but for some reason it awakened in
Mr. Ludolph a vague foreboding.

The hours dragged on, and late in the afternoon the hard-driven
physician appeared, examined his patient, and seemed relieved.

"If there is no change for the worse," he said, cheerily, "if no new
symptoms develop by to-morrow, I can pronounce this merely a severe
cold, caused by the state of the system and too sudden check of
perspiration;" and the doctor gave and opiate and bowed himself out.

Long and heavily Christine slept. The night that Dennis filled with
agonizing prayer and thought was to her a blank. While he in his strong
Christian love brought heaven nearer to her, while he resolved on that
which would give her a chance for life, happy life, here and hereafter,
she was utterly unconscious. No vision or presentiment of good, like
a struggling ray of light, found access to her darkened spirit. So
heavy was the stupor induced by the opiate, that her sleep seemed like
the blank she so feared, when her brilliant, ambitious life should end
in nothingness.

So I suppose God's love meditates good, and resolves on life and joy
for us, while our hearts are sleeping, dead to Him, benumbed and
paralyzed so that only His love can awaken them. Like a vague yet
hope-inspiring dream, this truth often enters the minds of those who
are wrapped in the spiritual lethargy that may end in death. God wakes,
watches, loves, and purposes good for them. When we are most
unconscious, perhaps another effect for our salvation has been resolved
upon in the councils of heaven.

But ambition more than love, earthly hopes rather than heavenly, kept
Mr. Ludolph an anxious watcher at Christine's side that night. A smile
of satisfaction illumined his somewhat haggard face as he saw the fever
pass away and the dew of natural moisture come out on Christine's brow,
but there was no thankful glance upward. Immunity from loathsome disease
was due only to chance and the physician's skill, by his creed.

The sun was shining brightly when Christine awoke and by a faint call
startled her father from a doze in the great armchair.

"How do you feel, my dear?" he asked.

She languidly rubbed her heavy eyes, and said she thought she was
better--she felt no pain. The opiate had not yet lost its effect. But
soon she greatly revived, and when the doctor came he found her
decidedly better, and concluded that she was merely suffering from a
severe cold, and would soon regain her usual health.

Father and daughter were greatly relieved, and their spirits rose.

"I really feel as if I ought to thank somebody," said Christine. "I
am not going to thank the doctor, for I know what a bill is coming,
so I will thank you. It was very kind of you to sit up the long night
with me."

Even Mr. Ludolph had to remember that he had in his anxiety thought
as much of himself as of her.

"Another lease of life," said Christine, dreamily looking into the
future; "and, as I said last night, I mean to make the most of it."

"I can best guide you in doing that," said her father, looking into
his daughter's face with keen scrutiny.

"I believe you, and intend to give you the chance. When can we leave
this detested land, this city of shops and speculators? To think that
I, Christine Ludolph, am sick, idle, and perhaps have endangered all
by reason of foolish exposure in a brewer's tawdry, money-splashed
house! Come, father when is the next scene in the brief drama to open?
I am impatient to go _home_ to our beloved Germany and enter on real
life."

"Well, my dear, if all goes well, we can enter on our true career a
year from next fall--a short year and a half. Do not blame the delay,
for it will enable us to live in Germany in almost royal style. I never
was making money so rapidly as now. I have invested in that which
cannot depreciate, and thus far has advanced beyond belief--buildings
in the business part of the city. Rents are paying me from twenty to
a hundred per cent. At the same time I could sell out in a month. So
you see you have only to co-operate with me--to preserve health and
strength--to enjoy all that money can insure; and money can buy almost
everything."

Christine's eyes sparkled as the future opened before her, and she
said, with emphasis, "If _I_ could preserve health and strength, I would
live a thousand years."

"You can do much toward it. Every chance is in favor of prudence and
wise action;" and, much relieved, her father went to the store.

Business had accumulated, and in complete absorption he gave himself
to it. With an anxiety beyond expression, Dennis, flushed and trembling,
ventured to approach. Merely glancing to see who it was, Mr. Ludolph,
with his head bent over his writing, said, "Miss Ludolph is better--no
fear of smallpox, I think--you need not write to your mother--greatly
obliged."

It was well for Dennis that his employer did not look up. The open
face of Mr. Ludolph's clerk expressed more than friendly interest in
his daughter's health. The young man went to his tasks with a mountain
of fear lifted from his heart.

But the thought of the beloved one lying alone and sick at the hotel
seemed very pathetic to him. Love filled his heart with more sympathy
for Christine upon her luxurious couch, in rapid convalescence, than
for all the hopeless suffering of Chicago. What could he do for her?
She seemed so far off, so high and distant, that he could not reach
her. If he ventured to send anything, prudence whispered that she would
regard it as an impertinence. But love can climb every steep place,
and prudence is not its grand-vizier.

Going by a fruit-store in the afternoon he saw some fine strawberries,
the first in from the South. He bought a basket, decorated it with
German ivy obtained at a flower-stand, and spirited it upstairs to his
room as if it were the most dangerous of contraband. In a disguised
hand he wrote on a card, "For Miss Ludolph." Calling Ernst, who had
little to do at that hour of the day, he said: "Ernst, my boy, take
this parcel to Le Grand Hotel, and say it is for Miss Christine Ludolph.
Tell them to send it right up, but on no account--remember, on no
account--tell any one who sent it. Carry it carefully in just this
manner."

Ernst was soon at his destination, eager to do anything for his friend.

After all, the day had proved a long one for Christine. Unaccustomed
to the restraints of sickness, she found the enforced inaction very
wearisome. Mind and body both seemed weak. The sources of chief
enjoyment when well seemed powerless to contribute much now. In silken
robe she reclined in an arm-chair, or languidly sauntered about the
room. She took up a book only to throw it down again. Her pencil fared
no better. Ennui gave to her fair young face the expression of one who
had tried the world for a century and found it wanting. She was leaning
her elbow on the window-sill, gazing vacantly into the street, when
Ernst appeared.

"Janette," she said, suddenly, "do you see that boy? He is employed
at the store. Go bring him up here; I want him;" and with more animation
than she had shown that day she got out materials for a sketch.

"I must get that boy's face," she said, "before good living destroys
all his artistic merit."

Ernst was unwilling to come, but the maid almost dragged him up.

"What have you got there?" asked Miss Ludolph, with a reassuring smile.

"Something for Miss Ludolph," stammered the boy, looking very much
embarrassed.

Christine carefully opened the parcel and then exclaimed with delight:
"Strawberries, as I live! the very ambrosia of the gods. Papa sent
them, did he not?"

"No," said the boy, hanging his head.

"Who did, then?" said Christine, looking at him keenly.

He shuffled uneasily, but made no answer.

"Come, I insist on knowing," she cried, her wilful spirit and curiosity
both aroused.

The boy was pale and frightened, and she was mentally taking notes of
his face. But he said, doggedly, "I can't tell."

"But I say you must. Don't you know that I am Miss Ludolph?"

"I don't care what you do to me," said the little fellow, beginning
to cry, "I won't tell."

"Why won't you tell, my boy?" said Christine, cunningly, in a wheedling
tone of voice.

Before he knew it, the frightened, bewildered boy fell into the trap,
and he sobbed, "Because Mr. Fleet told me not to, and I wouldn't disobey
him to save my life."

A look of surprise, and then a broad smile, stole over the young girl's
face--at the gift, the messenger, and at him who sent it. It was indeed
a fresh and unexpected little episode, breaking the monotony of the
day--as fresh and pleasing to her as one of the luscious berries so
grateful to her parched mouth.

"You need not tell me," she said, soothingly, "if Mr. Fleet told you
not to."

The boy saw the smile, and in a moment realized that he had been tricked
out of the forbidden knowledge.

His little face glowed with honest indignation, and looking straight
at Miss Ludolph, with his great eyes flashing through the tears, he
said, "You stole that from me."

Even she colored a little and bit her lip under the merited charge.
But all this made him all the more interesting as an art study, and
she was now sketching away rapidly. She coolly replied, however, "You
don't know the world very well yet, my little man."

The boy said nothing, but stood regarding her with his unnaturally
large eyes filled with anger, reproach, and wonder.

"Oh," thought Christine, "if I could only paint that expression!"

"You seem a great friend of Mr. Fleet," she said, studying and sketching
him as if he had been an inanimate object.

The boy made no answer.

"Perhaps you do not know that I am a friend--friendly," she added,
correcting herself, "to Mr. Fleet also."

"Mr. Fleet never likes to have his friends do wrong," said the boy,
doubtingly.

Again she colored a little, for Ernst's pure and reproachful face made
her feel that she had done a mean thing, but she laughed said: "You
see I am not in his mission class, and have never had the instruction
that you have. But, after all, why do you think Mr. Fleet better than
other people?"

"By what he does."

"That is a fair test; what has he done?"

"He saved us all from starving, and worse than starving."

Then with feminine tact she drew from him his story, and it was told
with deep feeling and the natural pathos of childhood, and his gratitude
caused him to dwell with a simple eloquence on the part Dennis had
taken, while his rich and loved German accent made it all the more
interesting to Christine. She dropped her pencil, and, when he finished,
her eyes, that were seldom moistened by the dew of sympathy, were wet.

"Good-by, my child," she said, in a voice so kind and sweet that it
seemed as if another person had spoken. "You shall come again, and
then I shall finish my sketch. When I get well I shall go to see your
father's picture. Do not be afraid; neither you nor Mr. Fleet will
fare the worse for the strawberries, and you may tell him that they
have done me much good."

When Dennis, wondering at Ernst's long absence, heard from him his
story, his mind was in a strange tumult, and yet the result of his
effort seemed favorable.   But he learned more fully than ever that
Christine was not perfect, and that her faultless beauty and taste
were but the fair mask of a deformed spirit. But he dwelt in hope on
the feeling she had shown at Ernst's story.

"She seemed to have two hearts," said the boy--"a good, kind one way
inside the cold, hard outside one."

"That is about the truth," thought Dennis. "Good-night, Ernst. I don't
blame you, my boy, for you did the best you could."

He had done better than Dennis knew.



CHAPTER XXVII

A MISERABLE TRIUMPH


After Ernst's departure Christine reclined wearily in her chair, quite
exhausted by even the slight effort she had made, but her thoughts
were busy.

"What a unique character that Dennis Fleet is! And yet, in view of
what he believes and professes, he is both natural and consistent. He
seems humble only in station, and that is not his fault. Everything
he does seems marked by unusual good taste and intelligence. His earlier
position and treatment in the store must have been very galling. I can
hardly believe that the gentleman I sang Mendelssohn's music with the
other evening was the same that I laughed at as he blacked old
Schwartz's boots. And yet he saw me laugh, and blacked the boots,
conscious that he was a gentleman. It must have been very hard. And
yet I would rather do such work myself than live on charity, and so
undoubtedly he felt. It is very fortunate that we nearly finished the
rearrangement of the pictures before all this occurred, for I could
not order him about now as I have done. The fact is, I like servants,
not dignified helpers; and knowing what I do, even if he would permit
it, I could not speak to him as formerly. But he did show wonderful
taste and skill in his help. See now that little ivy-twined basket of
luscious fruit: it looks just like him. If he were only rich and titled,
what a genuine nobleman he would make! He is among the few men who do
not weary or disgust me; so many are coarse and commonplace. I cannot
understand it, but I, who fear and care for no one except my father,
almost feared him when under Miss Brown's insolence he looked as few
men can. What a jumble the world is! He sweeps the store, while
insignificant atoms of men are conspicuous in their littleness by
reason of high position.

"It was very kind of him to send me this tasteful gift after the
miserable experience I caused him the other day. I suppose he does it
on the principle of returning good for evil, as his creed teaches.
Moreover, he seems grateful that father gave him employment, and a
chance to earn twice what he receives. He certainly must be promoted
at once.

"Perhaps," thought she, smiling to herself, while a faint tinge of
color came into her cheeks--"perhaps, like so many others, he may be
inclined to be a little sentimental also, though he will never be as
silly as some of them.

"What a noble part he acted toward those Bruders! The heart of a pagan
could not fail to be touched by that poor little fellow's story, and
it has made me believe that I have more heart than I supposed.
Sometimes, especially when I hear or read of some such noble deed, I
catch glimpses of a life infinitely better than the one I know, like
the sun shining through a rift in the clouds; then they shut down
again, and father's practical wisdom seems the best there is.

"At any rate," she said aloud, getting up and walking the floor with
something of the old restless energy, "I intend to live while I live,
and crowd into life's brief day all that I can. I thank Mr. Fleet for
a few sensations in what would otherwise have been a monotonous, dreary
afternoon."

"What, strawberries!" said Mr. Ludolph, coming in. "Where did you get
these? They are the first I have seen."

"Your man-of-all-work sent them to me," said Christine, daintily dipping
one after another in sugar.

"Well, that is a good joke."

"A most excellent one, which I am enjoying, and in which you may share.
Help yourself."

"And what has led him to this extravagant favor?"

"Consistency, I suppose. As a good Christian he would return good for
evil; and I certainly caused him many and varied tortures the other
day."

"No, he is grateful; from first to last the callow youth has been
overwhelmed with gratitude that I have permitted him to be worth to
me double what I paid him."

"Well, you have decided to promote him, have you not?"

"Yes, he shall have charge of the hanging of new pictures, and the
general arrangement of the store, so as to keep up your tasteful and
artistic methods. Moreover, he shall meet customers at the door, and
direct them just where to find what they want. He is fine-looking,
polite, speaks English perfectly, and thus takes well. I can gradually
work him in as general salesman, without creating troublesome
jealousies."

"What will old Schwartz say?"

"Schwartz is good at finance and figures. I can trust him, and he must
relieve me more in this respect. He of course knows that this is the
more important work, and will feel honored. As to the others, if they
do not like it I can find plenty who will. Fleet's good fortune will
take him quite by surprise. He was performing his old humble duties
as briskly and contentedly as usual to-day."

"I am surprised at that, for I should have supposed that he would have
been on his dignity somewhat, indicating by manner at least that the
time for a change had come. He can indicate a great deal by manner,
as you might have learned had you seen him under Miss Brown's insults
and my lack of courtesy. Well, it does me good to find one American
whose head is not turned by a little success. You are right though,
I think, father; that young fellow can be very useful to you, and a
decided help in hastening the time when we can leave this shop life,
and enter our true sphere. I am more impatient to go than words can
express, for life seems so brief and uncertain that we must grasp
things as soon as possible or we lose them forever. Heavens! what a
scare I have had! Everything seemed slipping from under my feet
yesterday, and I sinking I know not where. Surely by concentrating
every energy we can be ready to go by a year from next fall."

"Yes, that is my plan now."

On the following day Dennis was again promoted and his pay increased.
A man more of the Pat Murphy type was found to perform the coarse work
of the store. As Mr. Ludolph had said, Dennis could hardly realize his
good fortune. He felt like one lifted out of a narrow valley to a
breezy hillside. He was now given a vantage-point from which it seemed
that he could climb rapidly, and his heart was light as he thought of
what he would be able to do for his mother and sisters. Hope grew
sanguine as he saw how he would now have the means to pursue his beloved
art-studies to far greater advantage. But, above all, his promotion
brought him nearer the object of his all-absorbing passion. What he
feared would take him one or two years to accomplish he had gained in
a day. Hope whispered that perhaps it was through her influence in
some degree that he had obtained this advance. Could she have seen and
read his ardent glances? Lovers' hopes will grow like Jonah's gourd,
and die down as quickly. Words could not express his longing to see
her again, but for several days she did not come to the store. She
merely sent him word to complete the unfinished show-room in accordance
with the plan on which they had been working, leaving space on the
sides of the room opposite each other for two large pictures. Though
much disappointed, Dennis had carefully carried out her bidding.

Every evening the moment his duties permitted he sought his instructor,
Mr. Bruder, and, with an eagerness that his friends could not
understand, sought to educate hand and eye. Dennis judged rightly that
mere business success would never open to him a way to the heart of
such a girl as Christine. His only hope of winning even her attention
was to excel in the world of art, where she hoped to shine as a queen.
Then to his untiring industry and eager attention he added real genius
for his tasks, and it was astonishing what progress he made. When at
the close of his daily lesson Dennis had taken his departure, Mr.
Bruder would shake his head, and cast up his eyes in wonder, and
exclaim: "Dot youth vill astonish de vorld yet. Never in all Germany
haf I seen such a scholar."

Often till after midnight he would study in the solitude of his own
little room. And now, relieved of duties in the early morning, he
arranged an old easel in the attic of the store, a sort of general
lumber-room, yet with a good light for his purpose. Here he secured
two good hours daily, and often more, for painting; and his hand grew
skilful, and his eye true, under his earnest efforts. But his intense
application caused his body to grow thin and his face pale.

Christine had rapidly recovered from her illness, her vital and elastic
constitution rebounding back into health and vigor like a bow rarely
bent. She, too, was working scarcely less eagerly than Dennis, and
preparing for a triumph which she hoped would be the earnest of the
fame she meant to achieve. She no longer came to the store with her
father in the morning, but spent the best and early hours of the day
in painting, riding out along the lake and in the park in the afternoon.
Occasionally she came to the store in the after part of the day, glanced
sharply round to see that her tasteful arrangement was kept up, and
ever seemed satisfied.

Dennis was usually busy with customers at that time, and, though
conscious of her presence the moment she entered, found no excuse or
encouragement to approach. The best he ever received from her was a
slight smile and a cold bow of recognition, and in her haste and
self-absorption she did not always give these. She evidently
had something on her mind by which it was completely occupied.

"She does not even think of me," sighed Dennis; "she evidently imagines
that there is an immeasurable distance between us yet."

He was right; she did not think of him, and scarcely thought of any
one else, so absorbed was she in the hope of a great success that now
was almost sure. She had sent her thanks for the berries by her father,
which so frightened Dennis that he had ventured on no more such favors.
She had interceded for his promotion. Surely she had paid her debt,
and was at quits. So she would have been if he had only given her a
basket of strawberries, but having given his heart, and lifelong love,
he could scarcely be expected to be satisfied. But he vowed after each
blank day all the more resolutely that he would win her attention,
secure recognition of his equality, and so be in position for laying
siege to her heart.

But a deadly blight suddenly came over all his hopes.

One bright morning late in May two large flat boxes were brought to
the store. Dennis was busy with customers, and Mr. Schwartz said, in
his blunt, decided way, that he would see to the hanging of those
pictures. They were carried to the show-room in the rear of the store,
and Dennis at once concluded that they were something very fine,
designed to fill the spaces he had left, and was most anxious to see
them. Before he was disengaged they were lifted from their casing and
were standing side by side on the floor, opposite the entrance, the
warm rich morning light falling upon them with fine effect. Mr. Schwartz
seemed unusually excited and perplexed for him, and stared first at
one picture, then at the other, in a manner indicating that not their
beauty, but some other cause disturbed him.

Dennis had scarcely had time to exclaim at the exquisite loveliness
and finish of the two paintings before Mr. Ludolph entered, accompanied
by Mr. Cornell, a well-known artist, Mr. French, proprietor of another
large picture-store, and several gentlemen of taste, but of lesser
note, whom Dennis had learned to know by sight as habitues of the
"Temple of Art." He also saw that Christine was advancing up the store
with a lady and gentleman. Feeling that his presence might be regarded
as obtrusive, he passed out, and was about to go away, when he heard
his name called.

Looking up he saw Miss Winthrop holding out her hand, and in a moment
more she presented him to her father, who greeted him cordially.
Christine also gave him a brief smile, and said: "You need not go away.
Come and see the pictures."

Quick-eyed Dennis observed that she was filled with suppressed
excitement. Her cheeks, usually but slightly tinged with pink, now by
turns glowed and were pale. Miss Winthrop seemed to share her
nervousness, though what so excited them he could not divine. The
paintings, beautiful as they were, could scarcely be the adequate
cause; and yet every eye was fastened on them.

One seemed the exact counterpart of the other in frame and finish as
well as subject. A little in the background, upon a crag overhanging
the Rhine, was a castle, massive, frowning, and built more for security
and defence than comfort. The surrounding landscape was bold, wild,
and even gloomy. But in contrast with these rugged and sterner features,
was a scene of exquisite softness and tenderness. Beneath the shadow
of some great trees not far from the castle gate, a young crusader was
taking leave of his fair-haired bride. Her pale, tearful face, wherein
love and grief blent indescribably, would move the most callous heart,
while the struggle between emotion and the manly pride that would not
permit him to give way, in the young chieftain's features, was scarcely
less touching. Beautiful as were the accessories of the pictures, their
main point was to portray the natural, tender feeling induced by a
parting that might be forever. At first they all gazed quietly and
almost reverently at the vivid scene of human love and sorrow, save
old Schwartz, who fidgeted about as Dennis had never seen him before.
Clearly something was wrong.

"Mr. Schwartz," said Mr. Ludolph, "you may hang the original picture
on the side as we enter, and the copy opposite. We would like to see
them up, and in a better light."

"Dat's it," snorted Mr. Schwartz; "I'd like to know vich is vich."

"You do not mean to say that you cannot tell them apart? The original
hung here some time, and you saw it every day."

"I do mean to say him," said Mr. Schwartz, evidently much vexed with
himself. "I couldn't have believed dat any von in de vorld could so
impose on me. But de two pictures are just de same to a pin scratch
in frame, subject, and treatment, and to save my life I cannot tell
dem apart."

Christine's face fairly glowed with triumph, and her eyes were all
aflame as she glanced at her friend. Miss Winthrop came and took her
cold, quivering hands into her own warm palms, but was scarcely less
excited. Dennis saw not this side scene, so intent was he on the
pictures.

"Do you mean to say," said Mr. Cornell, stepping forward, "that one
of these paintings is a copy made here in Chicago, and that Mr. Schwartz
cannot tell it from the original?"

"He says he cannot," said Mr. Ludolph.

"And I'd like to see the von who can," said old Schwartz, gruffly.

"Will you please point out the original," said one of the gentlemen,
"that we may learn to distinguish them? For my part they seem like the
twins whose mother knew them apart by pink and white ribbons, and when
the ribbons got mixed she could not tell which was which."

Again Christine's eyes glowed with triumph.

"Well, really, gentlemen," said Mr. Ludolph, "I would rather you would
discover the copy yourselves. Mr. Cornell, Mr. French, and some others,
I think, saw the original several times."

"Look at Mr. Fleet," whispered Miss Winthrop to Christine.

She looked, and her attention was riveted to him. Step by step, he had
drawn nearer, and his eyes were eagerly glancing from one picture to
the other as if following up a clew. Instinctively she felt that he
would solve the question, and her little hands clenched, and her brow
grew dark.

"Really," said Mr. Cornell, "I did not know that we had an artist in
Chicago who could copy the work of one of the best European painters
so that there need be a moment's hesitancy in detecting differences,
but it seems I am mistaken. I am almost as puzzled as Mr. Schwartz."

"The frames are exactly alike," said Mr. French.

"There is a difference between the two pictures," said Mr. Cornell,
slowly. "I can feel it rather than see it. They seem alike, line for
line and feature for feature, in every part; and just where the
difference lies and in what it consists I cannot tell for the life of
me."

With the manner of one who had settled a difficult problem, Dennis
gave a sigh of relief so audible that several glanced at him.

"Perhaps Mr. Fleet from his superior knowledge and long experience can
settle this question," said Christine, sarcastically.

All eyes were turned toward him. He flushed painfully, but said nothing.

"Speak up," said Mr. Ludolph, good-naturedly, "if you have any opinion
to give."

"I would not presume to give my opinion among so many more competent
judges."

"Come, Mr. Fleet," said Christine, with a covert taunt in her tone,
"that is a cheap way of making a reputation. I fear the impression
will be given that you have no opinion."

Dennis was now very pale, as he ever was under great excitement. The
old look came again that the young ladies remembered seeing at Miss
Brown's entertainment.

"Come, speak up if you can," said Mr. Ludolph shortly.

"Your porter, Mr. Ludolph?" said Mr. Cornell, remembering Dennis only
in that capacity. "Perhaps he has some private marks by which he can
enlighten us."

Dennis now acted no longer as porter or clerk, but as a man among men.

Stepping forward and looking Mr. Cornell full in the face he said: "I
can prove to you, sir, that your insinuation is false by simply stating
that I never saw those pictures before. The original had been removed
from the store before I came. I have had therefore no opportunity of
knowing the copy from the original. But the pictures are different,
and I can tell precisely wherein I think the difference lies."

"Tell it then," said several voices. Christine stood a little back and
on one side, so that he could not see her face, or he would have
hesitated long before he spoke. In the firm, decided tones of one
thoroughly aroused and sure of his ground, he proceeded.

"Suppose this the copy," said he, stepping to one of the pictures.
(Christine breathed hard and leaned heavily against her friend.) "I
know of but one in Chicago capable of such exquisite work, and he did
not do it; indeed he could not, though a master in art."

"You refer to Mr. Bruder?" said Mr. Cornell.

Dennis bowed and continued: "It is the work of one in whom the imitative
power is wonderfully developed; but one having never felt--or unable
to feel--the emotions here presented cannot portray them. This picture
is but the beautiful corpse of that one. While line for line, and
feature for feature, and even leaf for leaf on the trees is faithfully
exact, yet the soul, the deep, sorrowful tenderness that you feel in
that picture rather than see, is wanting in this. In that picture you
forget to blame or praise, to criticise at all, so deeply are your
sympathies touched. It seems as if in reality two human hearts were
being torn asunder before you. This you know to be an exquisite picture
only, and can coolly criticise and dwell on every part, and say how
admirably it is done."

And Dennis bowed and retired.

"By Jove, he is right," exclaimed Mr. Cornell; and approving faces and
nodding heads confirmed his judgment. But Dennis enjoyed not his
triumph, for as he turned he met Christine's look of agony and hate,
and like lightning it flashed through his mind, "She painted the
picture."



CHAPTER XXVIII

LIFE WITHOUT LOVE


As Dennis realized the truth, and remembered what he had said, his
face was scarcely less full of pain than Christine's. He saw that her
whole soul was bent on an imitation that none could detect, and that
he had foiled her purpose. But Christine's wound was deeper than that.
She had been told again, clearly and correctly, that the sphere of
high, true art was beyond her reach. She felt that the verdict was
true, and her own judgment confirmed every word Dennis uttered. But
she had done her best; therefore her suffering was truly agony--the
pain and despair at failure in the most cherished hope of life. There
seemed a barrier which, from the very limitations of her being, she
could not pass. She did not fail from the lack of taste, culture, or
skill, but in that which was like a sixth sense--something she did not
possess. Lacking the power to touch and move the heart, she knew she
could never be a great artist.

Abruptly and without a word she left the room and store, accompanied
by the Winthrops. Dennis felt as if he could bite his tongue out, and
Christine's face haunted him like a dreadful apparition. Wherever he
turned he saw it so distorted by pain, and almost hate, that it scarcely
seemed the same that had smiled on him as he entered at her invitation.

"Truly God is against all this," groaned he, to himself; "and what I
in my weakness could not do He has accomplished by this unlooked-for
scene. She will now ever regard me with aversion."

Dennis, like many another, thought he saw God's plan clearly from a
mere glimpse of a part of it. He at once reached this miserable
conclusion, and suffered as greatly as if it had been God's will,
instead of his own imagination. To wait and trust is often the latest
lesson we learn in life.

Mr. Ludolph's guests, absorbed in the pictures, at first scarcely
noticed the departure of the others.

Christine, with consummate skill and care, kept her relationship to
the picture unknown to all save the Winthrops, meaning not to
acknowledge it unless she succeeded. But in Dennis's startled and
pained face she saw that he had read her secret, and this fact also
annoyed her much.

"I should like to know the artist who copied this painting," said Mr.
Cornell.

"The artist is an amateur, and not willing to come before the public
at present," said Mr. Ludolph, so decidedly that no further questions
were asked.

"I am much interested in that young clerk of yours," said Mr. French.
"He seems to understand himself.  It is so hard to find a good
discriminating judge of pictures. Do you expect to keep him?"

"Yes, I do," said Mr. Ludolph, with such emphasis that his rival in
trade pressed that point also no further.

"Well, really, Mr. Ludolph," said one of the gentlemen, "you deal in
wonders, mysteries, and all sorts of astonishing things yere. We have
an unknown artist in Chicago deserving an ovation; you have in your
employ a prince of critics, and if I mistake not he is the same who
sang at Brown's some little time ago. Miss Brown told me that he was
your porter."

"Yes, I took him as a stranger out of work and knew nothing of him.
But he proved to be an educated and accomplished man, who will doubtless
be of great use to me in time. Of course I promoted him when I found
him out." These last remarks were made for Mr. French's benefit rather
than for any one's else. He intended that his rival should knowingly
violate all courtesy if he sought to lure Dennis away. After admiring
the paintings and other things recently received, the gentlemen bowed
themselves out.

On leaving the store Mr. Winthrop--feeling awkward in the presence of
the disappointed girl--had pleaded business, and bidden her adieu with
a warm grasp of the hand and many assurances that she had succeeded
beyond his belief.

"I know you mean kindly in what you say," said Christine, while not
the slightest gleam lighted up her pale, sad face. "Good-by."

She, too, was relieved, and wished to be alone. Miss Winthrop sought
to comfort her friend as they walked homeward.

"Christine, you look really ill. I don't see why you take this matter
so to heart. You have achieved a success that would turn any head but
yours. I could not believe it possible had I not seen it. Your ambition
and ideal are so lofty that you will always make yourself miserable
by aiming at the impossible. As Mr. Fleet said, I do not believe there
is another in the city who could have done so well, and if you can do
that now, what may you not accomplish by a few years more of work?"

"That's the terrible part of it," said Christine, with a long sigh.
"Susie, I have attained my growth. I can never be a real artist and
no one living can ever know the bitterness of my disappointment. I do
not believe in the immortality that you do, and this was my only chance
to live beyond the brief hour of my life. If I could only have won for
myself a place among the great names that the world will ever honor,
I might with more content let the candle of my existence flicker out
when it must. But I have learned to-day what I have often feared--that
Christine Ludolph must soon end in a forgotten handful of dust."

"Oh, Christine, if you could only believe!"

"I cannot. I tried in my last sickness, but vainly. I am more convinced
than ever of the correctness of my father's views."

Miss Winthrop sighed deeply. "Why are you so despondent?" she at last
asked.

As if half speaking to herself, Christine repeated the words, "'Painted
by one having never felt, or unable to feel, the emotions presented,
and therefore one who cannot portray them.' That is just the trouble.
I tried to speak in a language I do not know. Susie, I believe I am
about half ice. Sometimes I think I am like Undine, and have no soul.
I know I have no heart, in the sense that you have." "I live a very cold
sort of life," she continued, with a slight shudder. "I seem
surrounded by invisible barriers that I cannot pass. I can see, beyond,
what I want, but cannot reach it. Oh, Susie, if you knew what I suffered
when so ill! Everything seemed slipping from me. And yet why I should
so wish to live I hardly know, when my life is so narrowed down."

"You see the disease, but not the remedy," sighed Susie.

"What is the remedy?"

"_Love_. Love to God, and I may add love for some good man."

Christine stopped a moment and almost stamped her foot impatiently.

"You discourage me more than any one else," she cried. "As to loving
God, how can I love merely a name? and, even if He existed, how could
I love a Being who left His world so full of vile evils? As to human
love, faugh! I have had enough of romantic attachments."

"Do you never intend to marry?"

"Susie, you are the friend of my soul, and I trust you and you only
with our secret. Yes, I expect to marry, but not in this land. You
know that in Germany my father will eventually be a noble, the
representative of one of the most ancient and honorable families. We
shall soon have sufficient wealth to resume our true position there.
A husband will then be found for me. I only stipulate that he shall
be able to give me position among the first, and gratify my bent for
art to the utmost."

"Well, Christine, you are a strange girl, and your dream of the future
is stranger still."

"Sometimes I think that all is a dream, and may end like one. Nothing
seems certain or real, or turns out as one expects. Think of it. A
nobody who swept my father's store the other day has this morning made
such havoc in my dream that I am sick at heart."

"But you cannot blame Mr. Fleet. He did it unconsciously; he was goaded
on to do it. No _man_ could have done otherwise. You surely do not feel
hardly toward him?"

"We do not naturally love the lips and bless the voice that tell us
of an incurable disease. Oh, no," she added, "why should I think of
him at all? He merely happened to point out what I half suspected
myself. And yet the peculiar way this stranger crosses my path from
time to time almost makes me superstitious."

"And you seem to have peculiar power over him. He would have assuredly
left us in the lurch at our tableau party had it not been for you, and
I should not have blamed him. And to-day he seemed troubled and pained
beyond expression when he read from your face, as I imagine, that you
were the author of the picture."

"Yes, I saw that he discovered the fact, and this provokes me also.
If he should speak his thoughts--"

"I do not think he will. I am sure he will not if you caution him."

"That I will not do; and I think on the whole he has too much sense
to speak carelessly of what he imagined he saw in a lady's face. And
now, Susie, good-by. I shall not inflict my miserable self longer upon
you to-day, and I am one who can best cure my wounds in solitude."

"Do you cure them, Christine? or do you only cover them up? If I had
your creed nothing could cure my wounds. Time might deaden the pain,
and I forget them in other things, but I do not see where any cure
could come from. Oh, Christine! you did me good service when in the
deepening twilight of Miss Brown's parlor you showed me my useless,
unbelieving life. But I do believe now. The cross is radiant to me
now--more radiant than the one that so startled us then. Mr. Fleet's
words were true, I know, as I know my own existence. I could die for
my faith."

Christine frowned and said, almost harshly: "I don't believe in a
religion so full of crosses and death. Why could not the all-powerful
Being you believe in take away the evil from the world?"

"That is just what He came to do. In that very character he was pointed
out by His authorized forerunner: 'Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh
away the sin of the world.'"

"Why does he not do it then?" asked Christine, petulantly. "Centuries
have passed. Patience itself is wearied out. He has had time enough,
if He ever meant or had the power to fulfil the promise. But the world
is as full of evil and suffering as ever. Susie, I would not disturb
your credulous faith, for it seems to do you good; but to me Christ
was a noble but mistaken man, dead and buried centuries ago. He can
do for me no more than Socrates. They vigorously attacked evil in their
day, but evil was too much for them, as it is for us. We must just get
the most we can out of life, and endure what we cannot prevent or
escape. An angel could not convert me to-day--no, not even Susie
Winthrop, and that is saying more still;" and with a hasty kiss she
vanished.

Susie looked wistfully after her, and then bent her steps homeward
with a pitying face.

Christine at once went to her own private room. Putting on a loose
wrapper she threw herself on a lounge, and buried her face in the
cushions. Her life seemed growing narrow and meagre. Hour after hour
passed, and the late afternoon sun was shining into her room when she
arose from her bitter revery, and summed up all in a few words spoken
aloud, as was her custom when alone.

"Must I, after all, come down to the Epicurean philosophy, 'Let us
eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die'? I seem on a narrow
island, the ocean is all around me, and the tide is rising, _rising_. It
will cover _soon_ my standing-place, and then what becomes of Christine
Ludolph?"

A look of anguish came into the fair young face, and a slight shudder
passed over her. She glanced around a room furnished in costly elegance.
She saw her lovely person in the mirror opposite, and exclaimed: "What
a mystery it all is!  I have so much, and yet so utterly fail of having
that which contents. I have all that wealth can purchase; and multitudes
act as if that were enough. I know I am beautiful. I can see that
yonder for myself, as well as read it in admiring eyes. And yet my
maid is better contented than I, and the boy who blacks the boots
better satisfied with his lot than either of us. I am raised so high
that I can see how much more there is or might be beyond. I feel like
one led into a splendid vestibule, only to find that the palace is
wanting, or that it is a mean hovel. All that I have only mocks me,
and becomes a means of torture.  All that I am and have ought to be,
might be, a mere prelude, an earnest and a preparation for something
better beyond.  But I am told, and must believe, that this is all, and
I may lose this in a moment and forever.  It is as if a noble strain
of music commenced sweetly, and then suddenly broken down into a few
discordant notes and ceased. It is like my picture--all very well; but
that which would speak to and move the heart, year after year, when
the mere beauty ceased to please--that life or something is wanting.
What were his words?--'This picture is but the beautiful corpse of
the other'; and my life is but a cold marble effigy of a true life.
And yet is there any true and better life?  If there is nothing better
beyond, I have been carried forward too far.  Miss Brown thoroughly
enjoys champagne and flirtations.  Susie Winthrop is happy in her
superstition, as any one might be who could believe what she does.
But I have gone past the power of taking up these things, as I have
gone past my childhood's sports. And now what is there for me? My most
dear and cherished hope--a hope that shone above my life like a sun--has
been blown away by the breath of my father's clerk (it required no
greater power to bring me down to my true level), and I hoped to be
a queen among men, high-born, but crowned with the richer coronet of
genius. I, who hoped to win so high a place that men would speak of
me with honest praise, now and in all future time, must be contented
as a mere accomplished woman, deemed worthy perhaps in time to grace
some nobleman's halls who in the nice social scale abroad may stand
a little higher than myself. I meant to shine and dazzle, to stoop to
give in every case; but now I must take what I can get, with a humble
'Thank you';" and she clenched her little powerless hands in impotent
revolt at what seemed very cruel destiny.

She appeared at the dinner-table outwardly calm and quiet. Her father
did not share in her bitter disappointment, and she saw that he did
not, and so felt more alone. He regarded her success as remarkable (as
it truly was), having never believed that she could copy a picture so
exactly as to deceive an ordinarily good observer. When, therefore,
old Schwartz and others were unable to distinguish between the pictures,
he was more than satisfied. He was sorry that Dennis had spoiled the
triumph, but could not blame him. At the same time he recognized in
Fleet another and most decided proof of intelligence on questions of
art, for he knew that his criticism was just. He believed that when
the true knight that his ambition would choose appeared, with golden
spurs and jewelled crest, then her deeper nature would awaken, and she
far surpass all previous effort. Moreover, he did not fully understand
or enter into her lofty ambition. To see her settled in life, titled,
rich, and a recognized leader in the aristocracy of his own land, was
his highest aspiration so far as she was concerned.

He began, therefore, in a strain of compliment to cheer his daughter
and rally her courage; but she shook her head sadly, and said so
decidedly, "Father, let us change the subject," that with some surprise
at her feelings he yielded to her wish, thinking that a little time
and experience would moderate her ideas and banish the pain of
disappointment. It was a quiet meal, both being occupied by their own
thoughts. Soon after he was absorbed for the evening by his cigar and
some business papers.

It was a mild, summer-like night, and a warm, gentle rain was falling.
Even in the midst of a great city the sweet odors of spring found their
way to the private parlor where Christine sat by the window, still
lost in painful thoughts.

"Nature is full of hope, and the promise of coming life. So ought I
to be in this my spring-time. Why am I not? If I am sad and disappointed
in my spring, how dreary will be my autumn, when leaf after leaf of
beauty, health, and strength drops away!"

A muffled figure, seemingly regardless of the rain, passed slowly down
the opposite side of the street. Though the person cast but a single
quick glance toward her window, and though the twilight was deepening,
something in the passer-by suggested Dennis Fleet. For a moment she
wished she could speak to him. She felt very lonely. Solitude had done
her no good. Her troubles only grew darker and more real as she brooded
over them. She instinctively felt that her father could not understand
her, and she had never been able to go to him for sympathy. He was not
the kind of person that any one would seek for such a purpose. Christine
was not inclined to confidence, and there was really no one who knew
her deeper feelings, and who could enter into her real hopes for life.
She was so proud and cold that few ever thought of giving her
confidence, much less of asking hers.

Up to the time of her recent illness she had been strong,
self-confident, almost assured of success. At times she recognized
dimly that something was wrong; but she shut her eyes to the unwelcome
truth, and determined to succeed. But her sickness and fears at that
time, and now a failure that seemed to destroy the ambition of her
life, all united in greatly shaking her self-confidence.

This evening, as never before, she was conscious of weakness and
dependence. With the instinct of one sinking, her spirit longed for
help and support. Then the thought suddenly occurred to her, "Perhaps
this young stranger, who so clearly pointed out the disease, may also
show the way to some remedy."

But the figure had passed on. In a moment mere pride and conventionality
resumed sway, and she smiled bitterly, saying to herself, "What a weak
fool I am to-night! Of all things let me not become a romantic miss
again."

She went to her piano and struck into a brilliant strain. For a few
moments the music was of a forced and defiant character, loud, gay,
but with no real or rollicking mirth in it, and it soon ceased. Then
in a sharp contrast came a sad, weird German ballad, and this was real.
In its pathos her burdened heart found expression, and whoever listened
then would not merely have admired, but would have felt. One song
followed another. All the pent-up feeling of the day seemed to find
natural flow in the plaintive minstrelsy of her own land.

Suddenly she ceased and went to her window. The muffled figure stood
in the shadow of an angle in the attitude of a listener. A moment later
it vanished in the dusk toward the business part of the city. The quick
footsteps died away, and only the patter of the falling rain broke the
silence. Christine felt sure that it was Dennis. At first her feeling
was one of pleasure. His coming and evident interest took somewhat,
she scarcely knew why, from her sense of loneliness. Soon her pride
awoke, however, and she said: "He has no business here to watch and
listen. I will show him that, with all his taste and intelligence, we
have no ground in common on which he can presume."

Her father had also listened to the music, and said to himself:
"Christine is growing a little sentimental. She takes this
disappointment too much to heart. I must touch her pride with the spur
a little, and that will make her ice and steel in a moment. It is no
slight task to keep a girl's heart safe till you want to use it. I will
wait till the practical daylight of to-morrow, and then she shall
look at the world through my eyes again."



CHAPTER XXIX

DENNIS'S LOVE PUT TO PRACTICAL USE


The day following his unlucky criticism of the pictures was one of
great despondency to Dennis. He had read in Christine's face that he
had wounded her sorely; and, though she knew it to be unintentional,
would it not prejudice her mind against him, and snap the slender
thread by which he hoped to draw across the gulf between them the cord,
and then the cable, that might in time unite their lives?

In the evening his restless, troubled spirit drove him, in spite of
the rain, to seek to be at least nearer to her. He felt sure that in
the dusk and wrapped in his greatcoat he would not be noticed, but was
mistaken, as we have seen. He was rewarded, for he heard her sing as
never before, as he did not believe she could sing. For the first time
her rich, thoroughly trained voice had the sweetness and power of
feeling. To Dennis her song seemed like an appeal, a cry for help, and
his heart responded in the deepest sympathy. As he walked homeward he
said to himself: "She could be a true artist, perhaps a great one, for
she can feel. She has a heart. She has a taste and skill in touch that
few can surpass. I can scarcely believe the beautiful coloring and
faultless lines of that picture are her work." He long for a chance
to speak with her and explain. He felt that he had so much to say, and
in a thousand imaginary ways introduced the subject of her painting.
He hoped he might find her sketching in some of the rooms again. He
thought that he knew her better for having heard her sing, and that
he could speak to her quite frankly.

The next day she came to the store, but passed him without the slightest
notice. He hoped she had not seen him, and, as she passed out, so
placed himself that she must see him, and secured for his pains only
a slight, cold inclination of the head.

"It is as I feared," he said, bitterly. "She detests me for having
spoiled her triumph. She is not just," he added, angrily. "She has no
sense of justice, or she would not blame me. What a mean-spirited
craven I should have been had I shrunk away under her taunts yesterday.
Well, I can be proud too."

When she came in again he did not raise his eyes, and when she passed
out he was in a distant part of the store. Christine saw no tall muffled
figure under her window again, though she had the curiosity to look.
That even this humble admirer, for whom she cared not a jot, should
show such independence rather nettled and annoyed her for a moment.
But she paid no more heed to him than to the other clerks.

But what was the merest jar to Christine's vanity cost Dennis a
desperate struggle. It required no effort on her part to pass him by
without a glance. To him it was torture. In a few days she ceased to
think about him at all, and only remembered him in connection with her
disappointment. But she was restless, could settle down to no work, and
had lost her zest in her old pleasures. She tried to act as usual,
for she saw her father's eye was on her. He had not much indulgence
for any one's weaknesses save his own, and often by a little cold
satire would sting her to the very quick. On the other hand, his
admiration, openly expressed in a certain courtly gallantry, nourished
her pride but not her heart. Though she tried to keep up her usual
routine, her manner was forced before him and languid when alone. But
he said, "All this will pass away like a cold snap in spring, and the
old zest will come again in a few days."

It did, but from a cause which he could not understand, and which his
daughter with consummate skill and care concealed. He thought it was
only the old enthusiasm rallying after a sharp frost of disappointment.

Dennis's pride gave way before her cool and unstudied indifference.
It was clearly evident to him that he had no hold upon her life
whatever, and how to gain any he did not see. He became more and more
dejected.

"She must have a heart, or I could not love her so; but it is so incased
in ice I fear I can never reach it."

That something was wrong with Dennis any friend who cared for him at
all might see. The Bruders did, and, with the quick intuitions of
woman, Mrs. Bruder half guessed the cause. Mr. Bruder, seeing
preoccupation and sometimes weary apathy in Dennis's face, would say,
"Mr. Fleet is not well."

Then, as even this slight notice of his different appearance seemed
to give pain, Mr. Bruder was patiently and kindly blind to his pupil's
inattention.

Dennis faithfully kept up all his duties on Sunday as during the week;
but all was now hard work. Some little time after the unlucky morning
which he could never think of without an expression of pain, he went
to his mission class as usual. He heard his boys recite their lessons,
said a few poor lame words in explanation, and then leaned his head
listlessly and wearily on his hand. He was startled by hearing a sweet
voice say, "Well, Mr. Fleet, are you not going to welcome a new laborer
into your corner of the vineyard?"

With a deep flush he saw that Miss Winthrop was in charge of the class
next to him, and that he had been oblivious to her presence nearly an
hour. He tried to apologize. But she interrupted him, saying: "Mr.
Fleet, you are not well. Any one can see that."

Then Dennis blushed as if he had a raging fever, and she was perplexed.

The closing exercises of the school now occupied them and then they
walked out together.

"Mr. Fleet," she said, "you never accepted my invitation. We have not
seen you at our house. But perhaps your circle of friends is so large
that you do not wish to add to it."

Dennis could not forbear a smile at the suggestion, but he said, in
apology, "I do not visit any one, save a gentleman from whom I am
taking lessons."

"Do you mean to say that you have no friends at all in this great city?"

"Well, I suppose that is nearly the truth; that is, in the sense you
use the term. My teacher and his wife--"

"Nonsense! I mean friends of one's own age, people of the same culture
and status as yourself. I think we require such society, as truly as
we need food and air. I did not mean those whom business or duty brought
you in contact with, or who are friendly or grateful as a matter of
course."

"I have made no progress since my introduction to society at Miss
Brown's," said Dennis.

"But you had the sincere and cordial offer of introduction," said Miss
Winthrop, looking a little hurt.

"I feel hardly fit for society," said Dennis, all out of sorts with
himself. "It seems that I can only blunder and give pain. But I am
indeed grateful for your kindness."

Miss Winthrop looked into his worn, pale face, and instinctively knew
that something was wrong, and she felt real sympathy for the lonely
young man, isolated among thousands. She said, gently but decidedly:
"I did mean my invitation kindly, and I truly wished you to come. The
only proof you can give that you appreciate my courtesy is to accept
an invitation for to-morrow evening. I intend having a little musical
entertainment."

Quick as light flashed the thought, "Christine will be there." He said,
promptly: "I will come, and thank you for the invitation. If I am
awkward, you must remember that I have never mingled in Chicago society,
and for a long time not in any."

She smiled merrily at him, and said, "Don't do anything dreadful, Mr.
Fleet."

He caught her mood, and asked what had brought her down from her
theological peak to such a valley of humiliation as a mission school.

"You and Miss Ludolph" she answered, seriously. "Between you, you gave
me such a lesson that afternoon at Miss Brown's that I have led a
different life ever since. Christine made all as dark as despair, and
against that darkness you placed the fiery Cross. I have tried to cling
to the true cross ever since. Now He could not say to me, 'Inasmuch
as ye did it not.' And oh!" said she, turning to Dennis with a smile
full of the light of Heaven, "His service is so very sweet! I heard
last week that teachers were wanted at this mission school, so I came,
and am glad to find you a neighbor."

Dennis's face also kindled at her enthusiasm, but after a moment grew
sad again.

"I do not always give so lifeless a lesson as to-day," he said, in a
low voice.

"Mr. Fleet, you are not well. I can see that you look worn and greatly
wearied. Are you not in some way overtaxing yourself?"

Again that sensitive flush, but he only said: "I assure you I am well.
Perhaps I have worked a little hard. That is all."

"Well, then, come to our house and play a little tomorrow evening,"
she answered from the platform of a street car, and was borne away.

Dennis went to his lonely room, full of self-reproach.

"Does she find Christ's service so sweet, and do I find it so dull and
hard? Does human love alone constrain me, and not the love of Christ?
Truly I am growing weak. Every one says I look ill. I think I am, in
body and soul, and am ceasing to be a man; but with God's help I will
be one--and what is more, a Christian. I thank you, Miss Winthrop; you
have helped me more than I have helped you. I will accept your
invitation to go out into the world. I will no longer mope, brood, and
perish in the damp and shade of my own sick fancies. If I cannot win
her, I can at least be a man without her;" and he felt better and
stronger than he had done for a long time. The day was breaking again.

In accordance with a custom that was growing with him ever since the
memorable evening when Bill Cronk befriended him, he laid the whole
matter before his Heavenly Father, as a child tells an earthly parent
all his heart. Then he added one simple prayer, "Guide me in all
things."

The next day was brighter and better than its forerunners. "For some
reason I feel more like myself," he thought. After the excitement and
activity of a busy day, he said, "I can conquer this, if I must."

But when he had made his simple toilet, and was on his way to Miss
Winthrop's residence, his heart began to flutter strangely, and he
knew the reason. Miss Winthrop welcomed him most cordially, and put
him at his ease in a moment, as only a true lady can. Then she turned
to receive other guests. He looked around. Christine was not there;
and his heart sank like lead. "She will not be here," he sighed. But
the guests had not ceased coming, and every new arrival caused a flutter
of hopes and fears. He both longed and dreaded to meet her. At last,
when he had almost given up seeing her, suddenly she appeared, advancing
up the parlor on her father's arm. Never had she seemed so dazzlingly
beautiful. He was just then talking to Mr. Winthrop, and for a few
moments that gentleman was perplexed at his incoherent answers and the
changes in his face. Having paid their respects to the daughter, Mr.
and Miss Ludolph came toward Mr. Winthrop, and of course Dennis had
to meet them. Having greeted them warmly, Mr. Winthrop said, "Of course
you do not need an introduction to Mr. Fleet."

Dennis had shrunk a little into the background, and at first they had
not noticed him. Mr. Ludolph said, good-naturedly, "Glad to see you,
Mr. Fleet, and will be still more glad to hear your fine voice."

But Christine merely bowed as to one with whom her acquaintance was
slight, and turned away. At first Dennis had blushed, and his heart
had fluttered like a young girl's; but, as she turned so coolly away,
his native pride and obstinacy were aroused.

"She shall speak to me and do me justice," he muttered. "She must
understand that I spoke unconsciously on that miserable morning, and
am not to be blamed. As I am a man, I will speak boldly and secure
recognition." But as the little company mingled and conversed before
the music commenced, no opportunity offered. He determined to show
her, however, that he was no country boor, and with skill and taste
made himself agreeable.

Christine furtively watched him. She was surprised to see him, as the
idea of meeting him in society as an equal had scarcely been suggested
before. But when she saw that he greeted one after another with grace
and ease, and that all seemed to enjoy his conversation, so that a
little knot of Miss Winthrop's most intelligent guests were about him
at last, she felt that it would be no great condescension on her part
to be a little more affable. In her heart, though, she had not forgiven
the unconscious words that had smitten to the ground her ambitious
hopes.

Then again, his appearance deeply interested her. A suppressed
excitement and power, seen in the glow and fire of his dark eyes, and
felt in his tones, stirred her languid pulses.

"He is no vapid society-man," she said to herself; and her artist eye
was gratified by the changes in his noble face.

"Look at Fleet," whispered her father; "could you believe he was
sweeping the store the other day? Well, if we don't find out his worth
and get what we can from him, the world will. We ought to have had him
up to sing before this, but I have been so busy since your illness
that it slipped my mind."

Miss Winthrop now led Christine to the piano, and she played a classical
piece of music in faultless taste. Then followed duets, solos, quartets,
choruses, and instrumental pieces, for nearly all present were musical
amateurs. Under the inspiration of this soul-stirring art, coldness
and formality melted away, and with jest and brilliant repartee,
alternating with song, there gathered around Miss Winthrop's piano
such a group as could never grace the parlors of Miss Brown. Sometimes
they would carry a new and difficult piece triumphantly through; again
they would break down, with much laughter and good-natured rallying.

Dennis, as a stranger, held back at first; but those who remembered
his singing at the tableau party were clamorous to hear him again, and
they tested and tried his voice during the evening in many and varied
ways. But he held his own, and won greener laurels than ever. He did
his very best, for he was before one whom he would rather please than
all the world; moreover, her presence seemed to inspire him to do
better than when alone. Christine, like the others, could not help
listening with delight to his rich, clear tenor, and Mr. Ludolph was
undisguised in his admiration.

"I declare, Mr. Fleet, I have been depriving myself of a good deal of
pleasure. I meant to have you up to sing with us before, but we have
been under such a press of business of late! But the first evening I
am disengaged you must surely come."

Christine had noticed how quietly and almost indifferently Dennis had
taken the many compliments showered on him before, but now, when her
father spoke, his face flushed, and a sudden light came into his eyes.
Dennis had thought, "I can then see and speak to her." Every now and
then she caught his eager, questioning, and almost appealing glance,
but he made no advances. "He thinks I am angry because of his keen
criticism of my picture. For the sake of my own pride, I must not let
him think that I care so much about his opinion;" and Christine resolved
to let some of the ice thaw that had formed between them. Moreover,
in spite of herself, when she was thrown into his society, he greatly
interested her. He seemed to have just what she had not. He could meet
her on her own ground in matters of taste, and then, in contrast with
her cold, negative life, he was so earnest and positive. "Perhaps papa
spoke for us both," she thought, "and I have been depriving myself of
a pleasure also, for he certainly interests while most men only weary
me."

Between ten and eleven supper was announced; not the prodigal abundance
under which the brewer's table had groaned, but a dainty, elegant
little affair, which inspired and promoted social feeling, though the
"spirit of wine" was absent. The eye was feasted as truly as the palate.
Christine had stood near Dennis as the last piece was sung, and he
turned and said in a low, eager tone, "May I have the pleasure of
waiting on you at supper?"

She hesitated, but his look was so wistful that she could not well
refuse, so with a slight smile she bowed assent, and placed the tips
of her little gloved hand on his arm, which so trembled that she looked
inquiringly and curiously into his face. It was very pale, as was ever
the case when he felt deeply. He waited on her politely but silently
at first. She sat in an angle, somewhat apart from the others. As he
stood by her side, thinking how to refer to the morning in the
show-room, she said: "Mr. Fleet, you are not eating anything, and you
look as if you had been living on air of late--very unlike your
appearance when you so efficiently aided me in the rearrangement of
the store. I am delighted that you keep up the better order of things."
Dennis's answer was quite irrelevant.

"Miss Ludolph," he said, abruptly, "I saw that I gave you pain that
morning in the show-room. If you only knew how the thought has pained
me!"

Christine flushed almost angrily, but said, coldly, "Mr. Fleet, that
is a matter you can never understand, therefore we had better dismiss
the subject."

But Dennis had determined to break the ice between them at any risk,
so he said, firmly but respectfully: "Miss Ludolph, I did understand
all, the moment I saw your face that day. I do understand how you have
felt since, better than you imagine."

His manner and words were so assured that she raised a startled face
to his, but asked coldly and in an indifferent manner, "What can you
know of my feelings?"

"I know," said Dennis, in a low tone, looking searchingly into her
face, from which cool composure was fast fading--"I know your dearest
hope was to be among the first in art. You staked that hope on your
success in a painting that required a power which you do not possess."
Christine became very pale, but from her eyes shone a light before
which most men would have quailed. But Dennis's love was so true and
strong that he could wound her for the sake of the healing and life
he hoped to bring, and he continued--"On that morning this cherished
hope for the future failed you, not because of my words, but because
your artist eye saw that my words were true. You have since been
unhappy--"

"What right have _you_--you who were but a few days since--who are a
stranger--what right have you to speak thus to me?"

"I know what you would say, Miss Ludolph," he answered, a slight flush
coming into his pale face. "Friends may be humble and yet true. But
am I not right?"

"I have no claim on your friendship," said Christine, coldly. "But,
for the sake of argument, grant that you are right, what follows?" and
she looked at him more eagerly than she knew. She felt that he had
read her very soul and was deeply moved, and again the superstitious
feeling crept over her, "That young man is in some way connected with
my destiny."

Dennis saw his power and proceeded rapidly, for he knew they might be
interrupted at any moment; and so they would have been had anything
less interesting than eating occupied the attention of others.

"I saw in the picture what in your eyes and mine would be a fatal
defect--the lack of life and true feeling--the lack of power to live.
I did not know who painted it, but felt that any one who could paint
as well as that, and yet leave out the soul, as it were, had not the
power to put it in. No artist of such ability could willingly or
ignorantly have permitted such a defect."

Christine's eyes sank, their fire faded out, and her face had the
pallor of one listening to her doom. This deeper feeling mastered the
momentary resentment against the hand that was wounding her, and she
forgot him, and all, in her pain and despair.

In a low, earnest tone Dennis continued: "But since I have come to
know who the artist is, since I have studied the picture more fully,
and have taken the liberty of some observation"--Christine hung on
his lips breathlessly, and Dennis spoke slowly, marking the effect of
every word--"I have come to the decided belief that the lady who painted
that picture can reach the sphere of true and highest art."

The light that stole into Christine's face under his slow, emphatic
words was like a rosy dawn in June; and the thought flashed through
Dennis's mind, "If an earthly hope can so light up her face, what will
be the effect of a heavenly one?"

For a moment she sat as one entranced, looking at a picture far off
in the future. His words had been so earnest and assured that they
seemed reality. Suddenly she turned on him a look as grateful and happy
as the former one had been full of pain and anger, and said: "Ah, do
not deceive me, do not flatter. You cannot know the sweetness and power
of the hope you are inspiring. To be disappointed again would be death.
If you are trifling with me I will never forgive you," she added, in
sudden harshness, her brow darkening.

"Nor should I deserve to be forgiven if I deceived you in a matter
that to you is so sacred."

"But how--how am I to gain this magic power to make faces feel and
live on canvas?"

"You must believe. You yourself must feel."

She looked at him with darkening face, and then in a sudden burst of
passion said: "I don't believe; I can't feel. All this is mockery,
after all."

"No!" said Dennis, in the deep, assured tone that ever calms and secures
attention. "This is not mockery. I speak the words of truth and
soberness. You do not believe, but that is not the same as cannot. And
permit me to contradict you when I say you _do_ feel. On this subject so
near your heart you feel most deeply--feel as I never knew any one feel
before. This proves you capable of feeling on other and higher subjects,
and what you feel your trained and skilful hand can portray. You felt on
the evening of that miserable day, and sang as I never heard you sing
before. Your tones then would move any heart, and my tears fell with the
rain in sympathy: I could not help it."

Her bosom rose and fell tumultuously, and her breath came hard and
quick.

"Oh, if I could believe you were right!"

"I know I am right," he said, so decidedly that again hope grew rosy
and beautiful in her face.

"Then again," he continued, eagerly, "see what an advantage you have
over the most of us. Your power of imitation is wonderful. _You can copy
anything you see._"

"Good-evening, Miss Ludolph. Where have you been hiding? I have twice
made the tour of the supper-room in my search," broke in the voluble
Mr. Mellen. Then he gave Dennis a cool stare, who acted as if
unconscious of his presence. An expression of disgust flitted across
Christine's face at the interruption, or the person--perhaps both--and
she was about to shake him off that Dennis might speak further,
when Miss Winthrop and others came up, and there was a general movement
back to the parlors.

"Why, Christine, what is the matter?" asked her friend. "You look as
if you had a fever. What has Mr. Fleet been saying?"

"Oh, we have had an argument on my hobby, art, and of course don't
agree, and so got excited in debate."

Miss Winthrop glanced keenly at them and said, "I would like to have
heard it, for it was Greek meeting Greek."

"To what art or _trade_ did Mr. Fleet refer?" asked Mr. Mellen, with an
insinuation that all understood.

"One that you do not understand," said Christine, keenly.

The petted and spoiled millionaire flushed angrily a moment, and then
said with a bow: "You are right, Miss Ludolph. Mr. Fleet is acquainted
with one or two arts that I have never had the pleasure of learning."

"He has at least learned the art of being a gentleman," was the sharp
retort.

The young man's face grew darker, and he said, "From the _sweeping_
nature of your remarks, I perceive that Mr. Fleet is high in your
favor."

"A poor pun made in poorer taste," was all the comfort he got from
Christine.

Dennis was naturally of a very jealous disposition where his affections
were concerned. His own love took such entire possession of him that
he could not brook the interference of others, or sensibly consider
that they had the same privilege to woo, and win if possible, that he
had. Especially distasteful to him was this rich and favored youth,
whose presence awakened all his combativeness, which was by no means
small.

Mr. Mellen's most inopportune interruption and covert taunts provoked
him beyond endurance. His face was fairly white with rage, and for a
moment he felt that he could stamp his rival out of existence. In the
low, concentrated voice of passion he said, "If Mr. Mellen should lose
his property, as many do, I gather from his remarks that he would still
keep up his idea of a gentleman on charity."

Mr. Mellen flushed to the roots of his hair, his hands clenched. In
the flashing eyes and threatening faces of the young men those
witnessing the scene foresaw trouble. A light hand fell on Dennis's
arm, and Miss Winthrop said, "Mr. Fleet, I wish to show you a picture,
and ask your judgment in regard to it."

Dennis understood the act, and in a moment more his face was crimson
with shame.

"Miss Winthrop, you ought to send me home at once. I told you I was
unfit for society. Somehow I am not myself. I humbly ask your pardon."

"So sincere a penitent shall receive absolution at once. You were
greatly provoked. I trust you for the future."

"You may," was the emphatic answer. After that pledge Mr. Mellen might
have struck him and received no more response than from a marble statue.

Mr. Mellen also took a sober second thought, remembering that he was
in a lady's parlor. He walked away with his ears tingling, for the
flattered youth had never had such an experience before. The few who
witnessed the scene smiled significantly, as did Christine half
contemptuously; but Miss Winthrop soon restored serenity, and
the remaining hours passed away in music and dancing. Christine did not
speak to Dennis again--that is, by word of mouth--but she thought of
him constantly, and their eyes often met;--on his part that same eager,
questioning look. She ever turned hers at once away. But his words
kept repeating themselves continually, especially his last sentence,
when the unlucky Mr. Mellen had broken in upon them--"You can copy
anything you see."

"How noble and expressive of varied feeling his face is!" she thought,
watching it change under the playful badinage of Miss Winthrop.

"How I would like to copy it! Well, you can--'You can copy anything
you see.'" Then like a flash came a suggestion--"You can make him
love you, and copy feeling, passion, life--from the _living_ face.
Whether I can believe or feel, myself, is very doubtful. This I can
do: he himself said so. I cannot love, myself--I must not; I do not
wish to now, but perhaps I can inspire love in him, and then make his
face a study. As to my believing, he can never know how utterly
impossible his faith is to me."

Then conscience entered a mild protest against the cruelty of the
project. "Nonsense!" she said to herself; "most girls flirt for sport,
and it is a pity if I cannot with such a purpose in view. He will soon
get over a little puncture in his heart after I have sailed away to
my bright future beyond the sea, and perhaps Susie will comfort him;"
and she smiled at the thought. Dennis saw the smile and was entranced
by its loveliness. How little he guessed the cause!

Having resolved, Christine acted promptly. When their eyes again met,
she gave him a slight smile. He caught it instantly and looked
bewildered, as if he could not believe his eyes. Again, when a little
later, at the urgent request of many, he sang alone for the first time,
and again moved his hearers deeply by the real feeling in his tones,
he turned from the applause of all, with that same questioning look,
to her. She smiled an encouragement that she had never given him before.
The warm blood flooded his face instantly. All thought that it was the
general chorus of praise. Christine knew that she had caused it, and
surprise and almost exultation came into her face. "I half believe he
loves me now," she said. She threw him a few more kindly smiles from
time to time, as one might throw some glittering things to an eager
child, and every moment assured her of her power.

"I will try one more test," she said, and by a little effort she lured
to her side the offended Mr. Mellen, and appeared much pleased by his
attention. Then unmistakably the pain of jealousy was stamped on
Dennis's face, and she was satisfied. Shaking off the perplexed Mr.
Mellen again, she went to the recess of a window to hide her look of
exultation.

"The poor victim loves me already," she said. "The mischief is done.
I have only to avail myself of what exists from no fault of mine, and
surely I ought to; otherwise the passion of the infatuated youth will
be utterly wasted, and do no one any good."

Thus in a somewhat novel way Christine obtained a new master in
painting, and poor Dennis and his love were put to use somewhat as a
human subject might be if dissected alive.



CHAPTER XXX

THE TWO HEIGHTS


Dennis went home in a strange tumult of hopes and fears, but hope
predominated, for evidently she cared little for Mr. Mellen. "The ice
is broken at last," he said. It was, but he was like to fall through
into a very cold bath, though he knew it not. He was far too excited
to sleep, and sat by his open window till the warm June night grew
pale with the light of coming day.

Suddenly a bright thought struck him; a moment more and it became an
earnest purpose. "I think I can paint something that may express to
her what I dare not put in words."

He immediately went up into the loft and prepared a large frame, so
proportioned that two pictures could be painted side by side, one
explanatory and an advance upon the other. He stretched his canvas
over this, and sketched and outlined rapidly under the inspiration of
his happy thought.

Christine came with her father to the store, as had been her former
custom, and her face had its old expression. The listless, disappointed
look was gone. She passed on, not appearing to see him while with her
father, and Dennis's heart sank again. "She surely knew where to look
for me if she cared to look," he said to himself. Soon after he went
to the upper show-room to see to the hanging of a new picture.

"I am so glad your taste, instead of old Schwartz's mathematics, has
charge of this department now," said a honeyed voice at his side. He
was startled greatly.

"What is the matter? Are you nervous, Mr. Fleet? I had no idea that
a lady could so frighten you."

He was blushing like a girl, but said, "I have read that something
within, rather than anything without, makes us cowards."

"Ah, then you confess to a guilty conscience?" she replied, with a
twinkle in her eye.

"I do not think I shall confess at all till I have a merciful
confessor," said Dennis, conscious of a deeper meaning than his light
words might convey.

"'The quality of mercy is not strained,' therefore it is unfit for my
use. I'll none of it, but for each offence impose unlimited penance."

"But suppose one must sin?"

"He must take the consequences then. Even your humane religion teaches
that;" and with this parting arrow she vanished, leaving him too excited
to hang his picture straight.

It all seemed a bewildering dream. Being so thoroughly taken by surprise
and off his guard, he had said far more than he meant. But had she
understood him? Yes, better than he had himself, and laughed at his
answers with their covert meanings.

She spent the next two days in sketching and outlining his various
expressions as far as possible from memory. She would learn to catch
those evanescent lines--that something which makes the human face
eloquent, though the lips are silent.

Dennis was in a maze, but he repeated to himself jubilantly again,
"The ice is broken." That evening at Mr. Bruder's he asked for studies
in ice.

"Vy, dat is out of season," said Mr. Bruder, with a laugh.

"No, now is just the time. It is a nice cool subject for this hot
weather. Please oblige me; for certain reasons I wish to be able to
paint ice perfectly."

Arctic scenery was Mr. Bruder's forte, on which he specially prided
himself. He was too much of a gentleman to ask questions, and was
delighted to find the old zest returning in his pupil. They were soon
constructing bergs, caves, and grottoes of cold blue ice. Evening after
evening, while sufficient light lasted, they worked at this study.
Dennis's whole soul seemed bent on the formation of ice. After a month
of labor Mr. Bruder said, "I hope you vill get over dis by fall, or
ve all freeze to death."

"One of these days I shall explain," said Dennis, smiling.

The evening of the second day after the little rencounter in the
show-room, Mr. Ludolph sat enjoying his cigar, and Christine was at
the piano playing a difficult piece of music.

"Come, father," she said, "here is a fine thing just from Germany.
There is a splendid tenor solo in it, and I want you to sing it for
me."

"Pshaw!" said her father, "why did I not think of it before?" and he
rang the bell. "Here, Brandt, go down to the store, and if Mr. Fleet
is there ask him if he will come up to my rooms for a little while."

Brandt met Dennis just starting for his painting lesson, but led him
a willing captive, to give Christine instruction unconsciously.

She, whose strategy had brought it all about, smiled at her success.
It was not her father's tenor she wanted, but Dennis's face; and her
father should unknowingly work her will. The girl had learned so much
from the wily man of the world that she was becoming his master.

Dennis came and entered with a thrill of delight what was to him
enchanted ground. Mr. Ludolph was affable, Christine kind, but she
looked more than she said.

Dennis sang the solo, after one or two efforts, correctly. Then Mr.
Ludolph brought out a piece of music that he wished to try; Christine
found others; and before they knew it the evening had passed. Quite
a knot of delighted listeners gathered in the street opposite. This
Christine pointed out to her father with evident annoyance.

"Well, my dear," he said, "hotel life in a crowded city renders escape
from such things impossible."

But a purpose was growing in her mind of which she spoke soon after.
Throughout the evening she had studied Dennis's face as much as she
could without attracting notice, and the thought grew upon her that
at last she had found a path to the success she so craved.

"You seem to have gone to work with your old interest," said her father,
as he came out of his room the next morning and found Christine at her
easel.

"I shall try it again," she said, briefly.

"That is right," said he. "The idea of being daunted by one partial
failure! I predict for you such success as will satisfy even your
fastidious taste."

"We shall see," she said. "I hope, too." But she would not have her
father know on what grounds. He might regard the experiment as a
dangerous one for herself as well as for Dennis, and she decided to
keep her plan entirely secret.

She now came to the store daily, and rarely went away without giving
Dennis a smile or word of recognition. But he noticed that she ever
did this in a casual manner, and in a way that would not attract
attention. He also took the hint, and never was obtrusive or
demonstrative, but it was harder work for his frank nature. When
unobserved, his glances grew more ardent day by day. So far from
checking these, she encouraged them, but, when in any way he sought
to put his feelings into words, she changed the subject instantly and
decidedly. This puzzled him, for he did not understand that looks could
be painted, but not words. The latter were of no use to her. But she
led him on skilfully, and, from the unbounded power his love gave her,
played upon his feelings as adroitly as she touched her grand piano.

Soon after the company at Miss Winthrop's, she said to him, "You
received several invitations the other evening, did you not?"

"Yes."

"Accept them. Go into society. It will do you good."
Thus he soon found himself involved in a round of sociables, musicales,
and now and then a large party. Christine was usually present, radiant,
brilliant, the cynosure of all eyes, but ever coolly self-possessed.
At first she would greet him with distant politeness, or pretend not
to see him at all, but before the evening was over would manage to
give him a half-hour in which she would be kind and even gentle at
times, but very observant. Then for the rest of the evening he would
find no chance to approach. It appeared that she was deeply interested
in him, enjoyed his society, and was even becoming attached to him,
but that for some reason she determined that no one should notice this,
and that matters should only go so far. Poor Dennis could not know
that he was only her unconscious instructor in painting, paid solely
in the coin of false smiles and delusive hopes. At times, though, she
would torture him dreadfully. Selecting one of her many admirers, she
would seem to smile upon his suit, and poor Dennis would writhe in all
the agonies of jealousy, for he was very human, and had all the normal
feeling of a strong man. She would then watch his face grow pale and
his manner restless, as quietly and critically as an entomologist
regards the struggles of an insect beneath his microscope. Again, she
would come to him all grace and sweetness, and his fine face would
light up with hope and pleasure. She would say honeyed nothings, but
study him just as coolly in another aspect.

Thus she kept him hot and cold by turns--now lifting him to the pinnacle
of hope, again casting him down into the valley of fear and doubt.
What she wanted of him was just what she had not--feeling, intense,
varied feeling, so that, while she remained ice, she could paint as
if she felt; and with a gifted woman's tact, and with the power of one
loved almost to idolatry, she caused every chord of his soul, now in
happy harmony, now in painful discord, to vibrate under her skilful
touch. But such a life was very wearing, and he was failing under it.
Moreover, he was robbing himself of sleep in the early morning, that
he might work on his picture in the loft of the store, for which he
asked of poor Mr. Bruder nothing but ice.

Mrs. Bruder worried over him continually.

"You vork too hart. Vat shall we do for you? Oh, my fren, if you love
us do not vork so hart," she would often say. But Dennis would only
smile and turn to her husband in his insatiable demand for painted
ice. At last Mr. Bruder said, "Mr. Fleet, you can paint ice, as far
as I see, as veil as myself."

Then Dennis turned around short and said, "Now I want warm rosy light
and foliage; give me studies in these."

"By de hammer of Thor, but you go to extremes."

"You shall know all some day," said Dennis, entering on his new tasks
with increasing eagerness.

But day by day he grew thinner and paler. Even Christine's heart
sometimes relented; for, absorbed as she was in her own work and
interests, she could not help noticing how sadly he differed from the
vigorous youth who had lifted the heavy pictures for her but a few
short weeks ago. But she quieted herself by the thought that he was
a better artistic subject, and that he would mend again when the cool
weather came.

"Where shall we go for the two hot months?" asked her father the morning
after the Fourth.

"I have a plan to propose," replied Christine. "Suppose we go to
housekeeping."

"What!" said her father, dropping his knife and fork, and looking at
her in astonishment. "Go to all the expense of furnishing a house,
when we do not expect to stay here much more than a year? We should
hardly be settled before we left it."

"Listen to me patiently till I finish, and then I will abide by your
decision. But I think you will give me credit for having a slight turn
for business as well as art. You remember Mr. Jones's beautiful house
on the north side, do you not? It stands on ---- Street, well back,
surrounded by a lawn and flowers. There is only one other house on the
block. Well, Mr. Jones is embarrassed, and his house is for sale. From
inquiry I am satisfied that a cash offer would obtain the property
cheaply. The furniture is good, and much of it elegant. What we do not
want--what will not accord with a tasteful refurnishing--can be sent
to an auction-room. At comparatively slight expense, if you can spare
Mr. Fleet to help me during the time when business is dull, I can make
the house such a gem of artistic elegance that it will be noted
throughout the city, and next fall some rich snob, seeking to vault
suddenly into social position, will give just what you are pleased to
ask. In the meantime we have a retired and delightful home.

"Moreover, father," she continued, touching him on his weak side, "it
will be a good preparation for the more difficult and important work
of the same kind awaiting me in my own land."

"Humph!" said Mr. Ludolph, meditatively, "there is more method in your
madness than I imagined. I will think of it, for it is too important
a step to be taken hastily."

Mr. Ludolph did think of it, and, after attending to pressing matters
in the store, went over to see the property. A few days afterward he
came up to dinner and threw the deed for it into his daughter's lap.
She glanced it over, and her eyes grew luminous with delight and
triumph.

"See how comfortable and happy I will make you in return for this
kindness," she said.

"Oh, come," replied her father, laughing, "that is not the point. This
is a speculation, and your business reputation is at stake."

"I will abide the test," she answered, with a significant nod.

Christine desired the change for several reasons. There was a room in
the house that would just suit her as a studio. She detested the
publicity of a hotel. The furnishing of an elegant house was a form
of activity most pleasing to her energetic nature, and she felt a very
strong wish to try her skill in varied effect before her grand effort
in the Ludolph Hall of the future.

But in addition to these motives was another, of which she did not
speak to her father. In the privacy of her own home she could pursue
that peculiar phase of art study in which she was absorbed. Her life
had now become a most exciting one. She ever seemed on the point of
obtaining the power to portray the eloquence of passion, feeling, but
there was a subtile something that still eluded her. She saw it daily,
and yet could not reproduce it. She seemed to get the features right,
and yet they were dead, or else the emotion was so exaggerated as to
suggest weak sentimentality, and this of all things disgusted her.
Every day she studied the expressive face of Dennis Fleet, the
mysterious power seemed nearer her grasp. Her effort was now gaining
all the excitement of a chase. She saw before her just what she wanted,
and it seemed that she had only to grasp her pencil or brush, and place
the fleeting expressions where they might always appeal to the sympathy
of the beholder. Nearly all her studies now were the human face and
form, mainly those of ladies, to disarm suspicion. Of course she took
no distinct likeness of Dennis. She sought only to paint what his face
expressed. At times she seemed about to succeed, and excitement brought
color to her cheek and fire to her eye that made her dazzlingly
beautiful to poor Dennis. Then she would smile upon him in such a
bewitching, encouraging way that it was little wonder his face lighted
up with all the glory of hope.

If once more she could have him about her as when rearranging the
store, and, without the restraint of curious eyes, could play upon his
heart, then pass at once to her easel with the vivid impression of
what she saw, she might catch the coveted power, and become able to
portray, as if she felt, that which is the inspiration of all the
highest forms of art--feeling.

That evening, Dennis, at Mr. Ludolph's request, came to the hotel to
try some new music. During the evening Mr. Ludolph was called out for
a little time. Availing himself of the opportunity, Dennis said, "You
seem to be working with all your old zest and hope."

"Yes," she said, "with greater hope than ever before."

"Won't you show me something that you are doing?"

"No, not yet. I am determined that when you see work of mine again the
fatal defect which you pointed out shall be absent."

His eyes and face became eloquent with the hope she inspired. Was her
heart, awakening from its long winter of doubt and indifference,
teaching her to paint? Had she recognized the truth of his assurance
that she must feel, and then she could portray feeling? and had she
read in his face and manner that which had created a kindred impulse
in her heart? He was about to speak, the ice of his reserve and prudence
fast melting under what seemed good evidence that her smiles and
kindness might be interpreted in accordance with his longings. She saw
and anticipated.

"With all your cleverness, Mr. Fleet, I may prove you at fault, and
become able to portray what I do not feel or believe."

"You mean to say that you work from your old standpoint merely?" asked
Dennis, feeling as if a sunny sky had suddenly darkened.

"I do not say that at all, but that I do not work from yours."

"And yet you hope to succeed?" "I think I am succeeding."

Perplexity and disappointment were plainly written on his face. She,
with a merry and half-malicious laugh, turned to the piano, and sung:

    From Mount Olympus' snowy height
    The gods look down on human life:
    Beneath contending armies fight;
    All undisturbed they watch the strife.

Dennis looked at her earnestly, and after a moment said, "Will you
please play that accompaniment again?"

She complied, and he sang:

    Your Mount Olympus' icy peak
    Is barren waste, by cold winds swept:
    Another height I gladly see,
    Where God o'er human sorrow wept.

She turned a startled and almost wistful face to him, for he had given
a very unexpected answer to her cold, selfish philosophy, which was
so apt and sudden as to seem almost inspired.

"Do you refer to Christ's weeping over Jerusalem?" she asked.

"Yes."

She sat for a little time silent and thoughtful, and Dennis watched
her keenly. Suddenly her brow darkened, and she said, bitterly:
"Delusion! If He had been a God He would not have idly wept over sorrow.
He would have banished it."

Dennis was about to reply eagerly, when Mr. Ludolph entered, and music
was resumed. But it was evident that Dennis's lines had disturbed the
fair sceptic's equanimity.



CHAPTER XXXI

BEGUILED


Dennis returned to his room greatly perplexed. There was something in
Christine's actions which he could not understand. From the time of
their first conversation at Miss Winthrop's, she had evidently felt
and acted differently. If her heart remained cold and untouched, if
as yet neither faith nor love had any existence therein, what was the
inspiring motive? Why should deep discouragement change suddenly to
assured hope?

Then again her manner was equally inexplicable. From that same evening
she gave him more encouragement than he had even hoped to receive for
months, but yet he made no progress. She seemed to enjoy meeting him,
and constantly found opportunity to do so. Her eyes were continually
seeking his face, but there was something in her manner in this respect
that puzzled him more than anything else. She often seemed looking at
his face, rather than at _him_. At first Christine had been furtive
and careful in her observations, but as the habit grew upon her, and
her interest increased, she would sometimes gaze so steadily that poor
Dennis was deeply embarrassed. Becoming conscious of this, she would
herself color slightly, and be more careful for a time.

In her eagerness for success, Christine did not realize how dangerous
an experiment she was trying. She could not look upon such a face as
Dennis Fleet's, eloquent with that which should never fail to touch
a woman's heart with sympathy, and then forget it when she chose.
Moreover, though she knew it not, in addition to her interest in him
as an art study, his strong, positive nature affected her cool, negative
one most pleasantly. His earnest manifested feeling fell like sunlight
on a heart benumbed with cold.

Thus, under the stimulus of his presence, she found that she could
paint or sketch to much better purpose than when alone. This knowledge
made her rejoice in secret over the opportunity she could now have,
as Dennis again assisted her in hanging pictures, and affixing to the
walls ornaments of various kinds.

Coming to him one morning in the store, she said, "I am going to ask
a favor of you again."

Dennis looked as if she were conferring the greatest of favors. His
face always lighted up when she spoke to him.

"It is very kind of you to ask so pleasantly for what you can command,"
he said.

"To something of the same effect you answered before, and the result
was the disagreeable experience at Miss Brown's."

Dennis's brow contracted a little, but he said, heroically, "I will
go to Miss Brown's again if you wish it."

"How self-sacrificing you are!" she replied, with a half-mischievous
smile.

"Not as much so as you imagine," he answered, flushing slightly.

"Well, set your mind at rest on that score. Though not very merciful,
as you know, I would put no poor soul through that ordeal again. In
this case you will only have to encounter one of the tormentors you
met on that occasion, and I will try to vouch for her better behavior."
Then she added, seriously: "I hope you will not think the task beneath
you. You do not seem to have much of the foolish pride that stands in
the way of so many Americans, and then"--looking at him with a pleading
face--"I have so set my heart upon it, and it would be such a
disappointment if you were unwilling!"

"You need waste no more ammunition on one ready to surrender at
discretion," he said.

"Very well; then I shall treat you with all the rigors of a prisoner
of war. I shall carry you away captive to my new castle on the north
side and put you at your old menial task of hanging pictures and
decorating in various ways. As eastern sovereigns built their palaces
and adorned their cities by the labors of those whom the fortunes of
war threw into their hands, so your skill and taste shall be useful
to me; and I, your head task-mistress," she added, with her insinuating
smile, "will be ever present to see that there is no idling, nothing
but monotonous toil. Had you not better have stood longer in the
defensive?"

Dennis held out his hands in mock humility and said: "I am ready for
my chains. You shall see with what fortitude I endure my captivity."

"It is well that you should show it somewhere, for you have not done
so in your resistance. But I parole you on your honor, to report at
such times as I shall indicate and papa can spare you;" and with a
smile and a lingering look that seemed, as before, directed to his
face rather than himself, she passed out.

That peculiar look often puzzled him, and at times he would go to a
glass and see if there was anything wrong or unusual in his appearance.
But now his hopes rose higher than ever. She had been very gracious,
certainly, and invited intimate companionship. Dennis felt that she
must have read his feelings in his face and manner, and, to his
ingenuous nature, any encouragement seemed to promise all he hoped.

For a week after this he scarcely saw her, for she was very busy making
preliminary arrangements for the occupation of her new home. But one
afternoon she suddenly appeared, and said, with affected severity,
"Report to-mor-row at nine A.M."

Dennis bowed humbly. She gave him a pleasant smile over her shoulder,
and passed away as quickly as she had come. It seemed like a vision
to him, and only a trace of her favorite perfume (which indeed ever
seemed more an atmosphere than a perfume) remained as evidence that
she had been there.

At five minutes before the time on the following day he appeared at
the new Ludolph mansion. From an open window Christine beckoned him
to enter, and welcomed him with characteristic words--"In view of your
foolish surrender to my power, remember that you have no rights that
I am bound to respect."

"I throw myself on your mercy."

"I have already told you that I do not possess that trait; so prepare
for the worst."

She was dressed in some light summer fabric, and her rounded arms and
neck were partially bare. She looked so white and cool, so
self-possessed, and, with all her smiles, so devoid of warm human
feeling, that Dennis felt a sudden chill at heart. The ancient fable
of the sirens occurred to him. Might she not be luring him on to his
own destruction? At times he almost hoped that she loved him; again,
something in her manner caused him to doubt everything. But there were
not, as in the case of Ulysses and his crew, friendly hands to bind
and restrain, or to put wax in his ears, and soon the music of her
voice, the strong enchantment of the love she had inspired, banished
all thought of prudence. His passion was now becoming a species of
intoxication, a continued and feverish excitement, and its influence
was unhappy on mind and body. There was no rest, peace, or assurance
in it, and the uncertainty, the tantalizing inability to obtain a
definite satisfying word, and yet the apparent nearness of the prize,
wore upon him. Sometimes, when late at night he sat brooding over his
last interview, weighing with the nice scale of a lover's anxiety her
every look and even accent, his own haggard face would startle him.

Then again her influence was not morally good, and his interest declined
in everything save what was connected with her.

Conscience at times told him that he was more bent on gaining her love
for himself than in winning it for God. He satisfied himself by trying
to reason that when he had won her affection his power for good would
be greater, and thus, while he ever sought to look and suggest his own
love in nameless little ways, he made less and less effort to remind
her of a better love than even his. Moreover, she never encouraged any
approach to sacred themes, sometimes repelling it decidedly, and so,
though he would scarcely acknowledge it, the traitorous fear sprung
up, that in speaking of God's love he might mar his chances of speaking
of his own.

In the retirement of his own room, his reveries grew longer, and his
prayers shorter and less inspired by faith and earnestness. At the
mission school, Susie Winthrop noticed with regret that the lesson was
often given in a listless, preoccupied manner; and even the little
boys themselves missed something in the teacher once so interesting
and animated. From witnessing his manner when with Christine, Miss
Winthrop had more than suspected his secret for some time, and she
felt at first a genuine sympathy for him, believing his love to be
hopeless. From the first she had found Dennis very fascinating, but
when she read his secret in his ardent glances toward Christine, she
became conscious that her interest was rather greater than passing
acquaintance warranted, and, like the good, sensible girl that she
was, fought to the death the incipient fancy. At first she felt that
he ought to know that Christine was pledged to a future that would
render his love vain. But her own feelings made her so exceedingly
sensitive that it was impossible to attempt so difficult and delicate
a task. Then, as Christine seemed to smile upon him, she said to
herself: "After all, what is their plan, but a plan, and to me a very
chimerical one? Perhaps Mr. Fleet can give Christine a far better
chance of happiness than her father's ambition. And, after all, these
are matters in which no third person can interfere." So, while remaining
as cordial as ever, she prudently managed to see very little of Dennis.

As we have seen, under Christine's merry and half-bantering words (a
style of conversation often assumed with him), even the thought of
caution vanished. She led him over the moderately large and partially
furnished house. There were women cleaning, and mechanics at work on
some of the rooms. As they passed along she explained the nature of
the decorations she wished. They consisted largely of rich carvings
in wood, and unique frames.

"I wish you to help me design these, and see that they are properly
put up, and to superintend the fresco-painters and mechanics in general.
Indeed, I think you are more truly my prime-minister than my captive."

"Not less your captive," said Dennis, with a flush.

She gave him a bewildering smile, and then studied its effect upon
him. He was in Elysium, and his eyes glowed with delight at her presence
and the prospect before him. At last she led him into two large
apartments on the second floor that opened into each other, and said,
"These are my rooms; that yonder is my studio," as was evident from
the large easel with canvas prepared upon it.

They at once had to Dennis all the sacredness of a shrine.

"I intend to make these rooms like two beautiful pictures," said
Christine, "and here shall be the chief display of your taste."

Dennis could scarcely believe his ears, or realize that the cold,
beautiful girl who a few short months ago did not notice him now
voluntarily gave him such opportunities to urge his suit. The success
that a man most covets seemed assured, and his soul was intoxicated
with delight. He said, "You intimated that my tasks might be menial,
but I feel as I imagine a Greek artist must have done, when asked to
decorate the temple of a goddess."

"I think I told you once before that your imagination overshadowed
your other faculties."

Her words recalled the painted girl whom she by a strange coincidence
so strongly resembled. To his astonishment he saw the same striking
likeness again. Christine was looking at him with the laughing, scornful
expression that the German lady bent upon the awkward lover who kneeled
at her feet. His face darkened in an instant.

"Have I offended you?" she asked, gently; "I remember now you did not
admire that picture."

"I liked everything about it save the expression of the girl's face.
I think you will also remember that I said that such a face should be
put to nobler uses."

Christine flushed slightly, and for a moment was positively afraid of
him. She saw that she must be more careful, for she was dealing with
one of quick eye and mind. At the same time her conscience reproached
her again. The more she saw of him the more she realized how sincere
and earnest he was; how different from ordinary society-men, to whom
an unsuccessful suit to a fair lady is a mere annoyance. But she was
not one to give up a purpose readily for the sake of conscience or
anything else, and certainly not now, when seemingly on the point of
success. So she said, with a slight laugh, "Do not compare me to any
of those old pagan myths again;" and having thus given a slight reason,
or excuse, for her unfortunate expression, she proceeded to beguile
him more thoroughly than ever by the subtile witchery of smiles,
glances, and words, that might mean everything or nothing.

"You seem to have a study on your easel there," said Dennis, as they
stood together in the studio. "May I see it?"

"No," said she; "you are to see nothing till you see a triumph in the
portrayal of feeling and lifelike earnestness that even your critical
eye cannot condemn."

She justly feared that, should he see her work, he might discover her
plan; for, however she might disguise it, something suggesting himself
entered into all her studies.

"I hope you will succeed, but doubt it."

"Why?" she asked, quickly.

"Because we cannot portray what we cannot feel. The stream cannot rise
higher than its fountain." Then he added, with heightened color and
some hesitation, "I fear--your heart is still sleeping"; and he watched
with deep anxiety how she would take the questioning remark.

At first she flushed almost angrily; but, recovering self-possession
in a moment, she threw upon him an arch smile, suggesting all that a
lover could wish, and said: "Be careful, Mr. Fleet; you are seeking
to penetrate mysteries that we most jealously guard. You know that in
the ancient temple there was an inner sanctuary which none might enter."

"Yes, _one_ might," said Dennis, significantly.

With her long lashes she veiled the dark blue eyes that expressed
anything but tender feeling, and yet, so shaded, they appeared as a
lover would wish, and in a low tone she answered, "Well, he could not
enter when he would, only when permitted."

She raised her eyes quickly to see the effect; and she did see an
effect that she would have given thousands to be able to transfer to
canvas.

His face, above all she had ever seen, seemed designed to express
feeling, passion; and his wearing life had made it so thin, and his
eyes were so large and lustrous, that the spiritual greatly
predominated, and she felt as if she could almost see the throbs of
the strong, passionate heart.

Apart from her artistic purposes, contact with such warm, intense life
had for Christine a growing fascination. She had not realized that in
kindling and fanning this flame of honest love to sevenfold power and
heat, she might be kindled herself. When, therefore, she saw the face
of Dennis Fleet eloquent with the deepest, strongest feeling that human
features can portray, another chord than the artistic one was touched,
and there was a low, faint thrill of that music which often becomes
the sweetest harmony of life.

"And at some time in the future may I hope to enter?" he asked,
tremulously.

She threw him another smile over her shoulder as she turned to her
easel--a smile that from a true woman would mean, You may, but which
from many would mean nothing, and said, vaguely, "What is life without
hope?" and then, as matters were going too fast and far, decisively
changed the subject.

Seated at her easel she painted eagerly and rapidly, while he measured
the space over and around the fireplace with a view to its
ornamentation. She kept the conversation on the general subject of
art, and, though Dennis knew it not, every glance at his face was that
of a portrait-painter.



CHAPTER XXXII

BITTER DISAPPOINTMENT


Dennis went back to the store in a maze of hopes and fears, but hope
predominated. Christine could not be indifferent and treat him as she
did, if she had a particle of sincerity, and with a lover's faith he
would not believe her false, though he knew her to be so faulty.

"At any rate," he said to himself, "in this new arrangement I have all
the opportunity a man could ask, and if I cannot develop her plainly
manifested interest into something more decisive by such companionship,
I may as well despair;" and he determined to avail himself of every
advantage within his reach in making the most of what he deemed a rare
stroke of fortune. His greatly increased salary enabled him to dress
with that taste and even elegance so pleasing to a lady's eye, and he
had withal acquired that ease and grace of manner which familiarity
with the best society bestows.

It is also well to tell the reader that after some hesitation Dennis
had confided his feelings to his mother, and received from her the
warmest sympathy. To Ethel Fleet's unworldly nature, that he should
fall in love with and marry his employer's daughter seemed eminently
fitting, with just a spice of beautiful romance. And it was her son's
happiness and Christine's beauty that she thought of, not Mr. Ludolph's
money. In truth, such was her admiration for her son, she felt that
with all her wealth the young lady would receive a greater honor than
she conferred. Though Dennis wrote with the partiality of a lover, he
could not so portray Christine's character but that his mother felt
the deepest anxiety, and often sighed in sad foreboding of serious
trouble in the future.

From Mrs. Fleet's knowledge of her son's passion, Christine, though
she knew it not, received another advantage of incalculable value.
Dennis had painted an excellent little cabinet likeness of her, and
sent it to his mother. In the quiet of the night she would sit down
before that picture, and by her strong imagination summon her ideal
of Christine, and then lead her directly to Christ, as parents brought
their children of old. Could such prayers and faith be in vain? Faith
is often sorely tried in this world, but never tried in vain.

Day after day Dennis went to Mr. Ludolph's new home during the morning
hours, and Christine's spell worked with bewildering and increasing
power. While she tortured him with many doubts and fears, his hope
grew to be almost a certainty that he had at last made a place for
himself in her heart. Sometimes the whole story of his love trembled
on his lips, but she never permitted its utterance. That she determined
should be reserved for the climax. He usually met her alone, but noticed
that in the presence of others she was cool and undemonstrative. Mr.
Ludolph rarely saw them together, and, when he did, there was nothing
in his daughter's manner to awaken suspicion. This perfectly acted
indifference in the presence of others, and equally well acted regard
when alone, often puzzled Dennis sorely. But at last he concluded:
"She is wiser than I. She knows that I am in no condition now to make
proposals for her hand; therefore it is better that there should be
no recognized understanding between us;" and he resolved to be as
prudent as she. Then again she would so awaken his jealousy and fears
that he would feel that he must know his fate--that anything was better
than such torturing uncertainty.

As for Christine, two processes were going on in her mind--one that
she recognized, and one that she did not.

Her artistic aims were clear and definite. In the first place she meant
perfectly to master the human face as it expressed emotions, especially
such as were of a tender nature; and in the second place she intended
to paint a picture that in itself would make her famous. She chose a
most difficult and delicate subject--of the character she had ever
failed in--a declaration of love.

When Dennis began to work again in her presence, the picture was well
advanced.

In a grand old hall, whose sides were decorated with armor and weapons,
a young man stood pleading his cause with a lady whose hand he held.
The young girl's face was so averted that only a beautiful profile was
visible, but her form and attitude were grace itself. The lovers stood
in an angle of the hall near an open window, through which was seen
a fine landscape, a picture within a picture. But Christine meant to
concentrate all her power and skill on the young knight's face. This
should be eloquent with all the feeling and passion that the human
face could express, and she would insure its truthfulness to life
by copying life itself--the reality. Dennis Fleet was the human victim
that she was offering on the altar of her ambition.

Much of the picture was merely in outline, but she finished the form
and features of the suppliant in all save the expression, and this she
meant to paint from his face whenever she was in the right mood and
could bring matters to a crisis.

After he had been coming to the house two or three times a week for
nearly a month she felt that she was ready for the final scene, and
yet she dreaded it, she had staked so much hope upon it. It also
provoked her to find that she was really afraid of him. His was such
a strong, sincere nature, that she felt increasingly the wrong of
trifling with it. In vain she tried to quiet herself by saying, "I do
not care a straw for him, and he will soon get over his infatuation
on discovering the truth."

But she had a lesson to learn as well as he, for as we have intimated,
unrecognized as yet, there was a process going on in her mind that in
time would make strange havoc in her cold philosophy. Her heart's long
winter was slowly breaking up; her girlish passion, intense as it was
foolish, proved that she had a heart. Everything had been against her.
Everything in her experience and education, and especially in her
father's strong character and prejudices, had combined to deaden and
to chill her; and had these influences continued, she would undoubtedly
have become as cold and hard as some whom we find in advanced life
with natures like the poles, where the ice gathers year after year,
but never melts.

But in Dennis Fleet she met a nature as positive as she was becoming
negative. He was so warm and earnest that when she commenced to fan
his love into a stronger flame for purely artistic purposes, as she
vowed to herself, some sparks of the sacred fire fell on the cold altar
of her own heart and slowly began to kindle.

But this awakening would not now be that of a child, but of a _woman_.
Therefore, Mr. Ludolph, beware!

But she had yet much to learn in the hard, strange school of experience
before she would truly know herself or her own needs.

Success in art, however, was still her ruling passion. And though
strange misgivings annoyed and perplexed her, though her respect for
Dennis daily increased, and at times a sudden pity and softness made
her little hands hesitate before giving an additional wrench to the
rack of uncertainty upon which she kept him; still, she would not for
the world have abandoned her purpose, and such compunctions were as
yet but the little back eddies of the strong current.

One day, in the latter part of August, Christine felt herself in the
mood to give the finishing touch to the principal figure in her picture.
The day was somewhat hazy, the light subdued and favorable for artistic
work. Though she had prolonged Dennis's labors, to his secret delight
and great encouragement, she could not keep him employed much longer.

She sent for him to come over in the afternoon. "Some brackets,
carvings, and pictures had come for her studio, and she wished him to
put them up," she said, coolly, as he entered.

He had come glowing with hope and almost assurance, for, the last time
they had parted, she had dismissed him with unusual kindness. But here
was one of those capricious changes again that he could not understand.

She took her seat at her easel, saying, with a nod and a smile, "I can
direct you here, for I am in a mood for work this afternoon."

He bowed quietly and went on with his task. Her rather cool reception
oppressed him, and the tormenting question presented itself, for the
hundredth time, "Can she in any degree feel as I do?" He longed to
settle the matter by plain, straightforward action.

Her maid knocked at the door, saying, "The mail, mademoiselle."

A dainty note was handed her, which seemed decidedly pleasing, and
Dennis noticed as she read it that she wore on her finger a solitaire
diamond that he had not seen before. His latent jealousy was aroused.
She saw that her spell was working, and smiled. Soon she said: "Mr.
Fleet, you seem very grave. What is the matter?"

He answered, curtly, "Nothing."

She looked at him with a pretty, pained surprise. At the same time her
heart smote her. His face was so pale and thin, and indicated such
real suffering, that she pitied him more than ever. But she would have
suffered much herself for the sake of success, and she was not one to
hesitate long over the suffering of another. She compressed her lips
as she said, mentally: "Art is first, and these transient feelings are
secondary. There is little in the world but that has cost some one
deeply." She did not know how profound a truth this was.

After a few moments Dennis said, in a tone that had a jealous tinge,
"Miss Ludolph, your correspondent seems to interest you deeply."

"And you also, I think," she replied, with an arch smile; "and you
will be interested still more when you have read this;" and she offered
him the note.

"I have no right--do not think me prying," said he, flushing.

"I give the right. You know a lady can give many rights--if she
chooses," she added, significantly.

He looked at her eagerly.

Her eyes fell consciously, and her cheeks glowed with excitement, for
she felt that the critical moment had come. But instantly her proud,
resolute nature aroused as never before, and she determined to make
the most of the occasion, let the consequences be what they might.
Therefore she worked eagerly and watched him closely. Never had she
been so conscious of power. She felt inspired, capable of placing on
the canvas anything she chose. If in this mood she could succeed in
bringing into his face just the expression she desired, she could catch
it and fix it forever, and with it make a laurel (not a hymeneal)
wreath for her own brow. But what could Dennis know of all this? To
him the glowing cheek and eyes so lustrous told a different tale; and
hope--sweet, exquisite, almost assured--sprang up in his heart.

And he meant that it should be assured. He would speak that day if it
were possible, and _know_ his happiness, instead of fondly believing and
hoping that all was sure. Then he would be as prudent and patient as she
desired. Thus Christine was destined to have her wish fulfilled.

She continued: "The note is from a special friend of yours; indeed I
think you form a little mutual-admiration society, and you are spoken
of, so I think you had better read it."

"I shall not read the note," said Dennis; "but you may tell me, if you
choose, what you think the writer will have no objection to my knowing."

"And do you mean to suggest that you do not know who wrote the note?
I can inform you that you are to be invited to a moonlight sail and
musicale on the water. Is not that a chance for romance?"

"And will _you_ go?" asked Dennis, eagerly.

"Yes, if _you_ will," she said, in a low tone, giving him a sidelong
glance.

This was too much for Dennis, the manner more than the words, and taken
together they would have led any earnest man to committal. He was about
to speak eagerly, but she was not quite ready.

"Moreover," she continued, quickly, while Dennis stood before her with
cheeks alternately hot and pale, "this special friend who invites you
will be there. Now don't pretend ignorance of her name."

"I suppose you mean Miss Winthrop," said Dennis, flushing.

"Ah, you blush, do you? Well, it is my turn to ask pardon for seeming
curiosity."

He drew a few steps nearer to her, and the expression she had so longed
to see came into his face. She looked at him earnestly with her whole
soul in her eyes. She would photograph him on memory, if possible. For
a moment or two he hesitated, embarrassed by her steady gaze, and
seemingly at a loss for words. Then, in a low, deep tone he said, "You,
better than any one, know that I have no cause to blush at the mention
of Miss Winthrop's name."

She did not answer, but was painting rapidly. He thought this was due
to natural excitement expressing itself in nervous action. But she did
not discourage him, and this he felt was everything. With his heart
in his eyes and tones, he said: "Oh, Christine, what is the use of
wearing this transparent mask any longer? Your quick woman's eye
has seen for weeks the devoted love I cherish for you. I have heard much
of woman's intuitions. Perhaps you saw my love before I recognized it
myself, since your grace and beauty caused it to grow unconsciously
while I was your humble attendant. But, Christine, believe me, if you
will but utter in words what I fondly believe I have read in your
kindly glances and manner, though so delicately veiled--if you will
give me the strength and rest which come of assured hope--I know that
not far in the future I shall be able to place at your feet more than
mere wealth. I, too, hope to be an artist, and you have been my chief
inspiration. I could show you a picture now that would tell more of
what I mean than can my poor words. There is a richer and happier world
than you have yet known, and oh, how I have prayed that I might lead
you into it!" and in words of burning eloquence he proceeded to tell
the story of his love.

She heard him as in a dream. She understood his words, remembered them
afterward, but so intent was she on her darling purpose that she heeded
them not. His voice sounded far away, and every power of mind and body
was concentrated to transfer his expression to the canvas before her.
Even he, blinded as he was by his emotions, occupied by the long pent-up
torrent of feeling that he was pouring into her unheeding ear, wondered
at her strange, dazzling beauty and peculiar manner.

After speaking a moment or two, the blur over his eyes and the confusion
of his mind began to pass away, and he was perplexed beyond measure
at the way she was receiving the open declaration of his love. She was
painting through it all, not with the nervous, random stroke of one
who sought to hide excitement and embarrassment in occupation. She was
working earnestly, consciously, with precision, and, what was strangest
of all, she seemed so intent upon his face that his words, which would
have been such music to any woman that loved, were apparently unheard.
He stopped, but the break in his passionate flow of language was
unnoted.

"Christine, listen to me!" he cried, in an agony of fear and perplexity.
The tone of his appeal might have stirred a marble bosom to pity, but
she only raised her left hand deprecatingly as if warding off an
interruption, while she worked with intense eagerness with her right.

"Christine!" a frown contracted her brow for a second, but she worked
on.

He looked at her as if fearing she had lost her reason, but there was
no madness in her swift, intelligent strokes. Then like a flash the
thought came to him: "It is my face, not myself, that she wants! This,
then, has been the secret of her new hope as an artist. She would not
feel, as I told her she must, but she would call out and copy my
emotion; and this scene, which means life or death to me, is to her
but a lesson in art, and I am no more than the human subject under the
surgeon's knife. But surely no anatomist is so cruel as to put in his
lancet before the man is dead."

Every particle of color receded from his face, and he watched her
manner for the confirmation of his thought.

Her face was indeed a study. A beautiful smile parted her lips, her
eyes glowed with the exultation of assured and almost accomplished
success, and she looked like an inspired priestess at a Greek oracle.

But a bitterness beyond words was filling his heart.

A few more skilful strokes, and she threw down her brush, crying in
ecstatic tones, "Eureka! Eureka!" as she stood before the painting in
rapt admiration. In an instant he stood by her side. With all the pride
of triumph she pointed to the picture, and said: "Criticise that, if
you can! Deny that there is soul, life, feeling there, if you dare!
Is that painting but a 'beautiful corpse'?"

Dennis saw a figure and features suggesting his own, pleading with all
the eloquence of true love before the averted face of the maiden in
the picture. It was indeed a triumph, having all the power of the
reality.

He passed his hand quickly across his forehead, as if to repel some
terrible delusion, while yet he whispered its reality to himself, in
silent, despairing confession: "Ah, my God! How cold she must be when
she can see any one look like that, and yet copy the expression as
from a painted face upon the wall!"

Then, his own pride and indignation rising, he determined at once to
know the truth; whether he held any place in her heart, or whether the
picture was all, and he nothing.

Drawing a step nearer, as if to examine more closely, he seized a brush
of paint and drew it over the face that had cost both him and Christine
so much, and then turned and looked at her.

For a moment she stood paralyzed, so great seemed the disaster. Then
she turned on him in fury. "How dare you!" she exclaimed.

Only equal anger, and the consciousness of right, could have sustained
any man under the lightning of her eyes.

"Rather, let me ask, how dare you?" he replied, in the deep,
concentrated voice of passion; and lover and lady stood before the
ruined picture with blazing eyes. In the same low, stern voice he
continued, "I see the secret of your artistic hope now, Miss Ludolph,
but permit me to say that you have made your first and last success,
and there in that black stain, most appropriately black, is the result."

She looked as if she could have torn him to atoms.

"You have been false," he continued. "You have acted a lie before me
for weeks. You have deceived in that which is most sacred, and with
sacrilegious hands have trifled with that which every true man regards
as holy."

She trembled beneath his stern, accusing words. Conscience echoed them,
anger and courage were fast deserting her in the presence of the aroused
and more powerful spirit of her wronged lover. But she said, petulantly,
"Nonsense! You know well that half the ladies of the city would have
flirted with you from mere vanity and love of power; my motive was
infinitely beyond this."

Until now this had almost seemed sufficient reason to excuse her action,
but she distrusted it even to loathing as she saw the look of scorn
come out on his noble face.

"And is that your best plea for falsehood? A moment since I loved you
with a devotion that you will never receive again. But now I despise
you."

"Sir!" she cried, her face scarlet with shame and anger, "leave this
room!"

"Yes, in a moment, and never again to enter it while Christine Ludolph
is as false in character as she is beautiful in person. But before I
go, you, in your pride and luxury, shall hear the truth for once. Not
only have you been false, but you have been what no true woman ever
can be--cruel as death. Your pencil has been a stiletto with which you
have slowly felt for my heart. You have dipped your brush in human
suffering as if it were common paint. Giotto stabbed a man and
mercifully took him off by a few quick pangs, that he might paint his
dying look. You, more cruel, accomplish your purpose by slow,
remorseless torture. Merciful Heaven only knows what I have suffered
since you smiled and frowned on me by turns, but I felt that if I could
only win your love I would gladly endure all. You falsely made me
believe that I had won it, and yet all the while you were dissecting
my heart, as a surgeon might a living subject. And now what have you
to offer to solace the bitterness of coming years? Do you not know
that such deeds make men bad, faithless, devilish? Never dream of
success till you are changed utterly. Only the noble in deed and in
truth can reach high and noble art."

She sat before the disfigured picture with her face bowed in her hands.

She thought he was gone, but still remained motionless like one doomed.
A few moments passed and she was startled by hearing his voice again.
It was no longer harsh and stern, but sad, grave, and pitiful. "Miss
Ludolph, may God forgive you."

She trembled. Pride and better feeling were contending for the mastery.
After a few moments she sprang up and reached out her hands; but he
was gone now in very truth.



CHAPTER XXXIII

THE TWO PICTURES


When Christine saw that Dennis was not in the room, she rushed to a
window only in time to see his retreating form passing down the street.
For a moment she felt like one left alone to perish on a sinking wreck.
His words, so assured in their tones, seemed like those of a prophet.
Conscience echoed them, and a chill of fear came over her heart. What
if he were right? What if she had let the one golden opportunity of
her life pass? Even though she had stolen her inspiration from him
through guile and cruelty, had he not enabled her to accomplish more
than in all her life before? To what might he not have led her, if she
had put her hand frankly and truthfully in his? There are times when
to those most bewildered in mazes of error light breaks, clear and
unmistakable, defining right and wrong with terrible distinctness.
Such an hour was this to Christine. The law of God written on her heart
asserted itself, and she trembled at the guilty thing she saw herself
to be. But there seemed no remedy save in the one she had driven away,
never to return, as she believed. After a brief but painful revery she
exclaimed: "But what am I thinking of? What can he or any man of this
land be to me?"

Then pride, her dominant trait, awoke as she recalled his words.

"He despises me, does he? I will teach him that I belong to a sphere
he cannot touch--the poor infatuated youth! And did he dream that I,
Christine Ludolph, could give him my hand? He shall learn some day
that none in this land could receive that honor, and none save the
proudest in my own may hope for it. The idea of my giving up my ancient
and honorable name for the sake of this unknown Yankee youth."

Bold, proud words that her heart did not echo.

But pride and anger were now her controlling impulses, and with the
strong grasp of her resolute will she crushed back her gentler and
better feelings, and became more icy and hard than ever.

By such choice and action, men and women commit moral suicide.

With a cold, white face, and a burnished gleam in her eyes, she went
to the easel and commenced painting out the ominous black stain.

"I'll prove him a false prophet also. I will be an artist without
passing through all his sentimental and superstitious phases that have
so amused me during the past weeks. I have seen his lovelorn face too
often not to be able to reproduce it and its various expressions."

Her strokes were quick and almost fierce.

"Mrs. Dennis Fleet, ha! ha! ha!" and her laugh was as harsh and
discordant as the feeling that prompted it.

Again, a little later: "He despises me! Well, he is the first man that
ever dared to say that;" and her face was flushed and dark with anger.


Dennis at first walked rapidly from the scene of his bitter
disappointment, but his steps soon grew slow and feeble. The point of
endurance was passed. Body and mind acting and reacting on each other
had been taxed beyond their powers, and both were giving way. He felt
that they were, and struggled to reach the store before the crisis
should come. Weak and trembling, he mounted the steps, but fell fainting
across the threshold. One of the clerks saw him fall and gave the
alarm. Mr. Ludolph, Mr. Schwartz, and others hastened to the spot.
Dennis was carried to his room, and a messenger was despatched for Dr.
Arten. Ernst, with flying feet, and wild, frightened face, soon reached
his home in De Koven Street, and startled his father and mother with
the tidings.

The child feared that Dennis was dead, his face was so thin and white.
Leaving the children in Ernst's care, both Mr. and Mrs. Bruder, prompted
by their strong gratitude to Dennis, rushed through the streets as if
distracted. Their intense anxiety and warm German feeling caused them
to heed no more the curious glances cast after them than would a man
swimming for life note the ripple he made.

When Dennis regained consciousness, they, and Mr. Ludolph and Dr.
Arten, were around him. At first his mind was confused, and he could
not understand it all.

"Where am I?" he asked, feebly, "and what has happened?"

"Do not be alarmed; you have only had a faint turn," said the doctor.

"Oh, Mr. Fleet, you vork too hart, you vork too hart; I knew dis vould
come," sobbed Mrs. Bruder.

"Why, his duties in the store have not been so onerous of late," said
Mr. Ludolph, in some surprise.

"It is not der vork in der store, but he vork nearly all night too.
Den he haf had trouble, I know he haf. Do he say no vort about him?"

Dennis gave Mrs. Bruder a sudden warning look, and then, through the
strong instinct to guard his secret, roused himself.

"Is it anything serious, doctor?" he asked.

The physician looked grave, and said, "Your pulse and whole appearance
indicate great exhaustion and physical depression, and I also fear
that fever may set in."

"I think you are right," said Dennis. "I feel as if I were going to
be ill. My mind has a tendency to wander. Mr. Ludolph, will you permit
me to go home? If I am to be sick, I want to be with my mother."

Mr. Ludolph looked inquiringly at the doctor, who said significantly,
in a low tone, "I think it would be as well."

"Certainly, Fleet," said his employer; "though I hope it is only a
temporary indisposition, and that you will be back in a few days. You
must try and get a good night's rest, and so be prepared for the journey
in the morning."

"With your permission I will go at once. A train leaves now in an hour,
and by morning I can be at home."

"I scarcely think it prudent," began the doctor.

"Oh, certainly not to-night," said Mr. Ludolph, also.

"Pardon me, I must go at once," interrupted Dennis, briefly and so
decidedly that the gentlemen looked at each other and said no more.

"Mr. Bruder," he continued, "I must be indebted to you for a real proof
of your friendship. In that drawer you will find my money. The key is
in my pocketbook. Will you get a carriage and take me to the depot at
once? and can you be so kind as to go on home with me? I cannot trust
myself alone. Mrs. Bruder, will you pack up what you think I need?"
His faithful friends hastened to do his bidding.

"Mr. Ludolph, you have been very kind to me. I am sorry this has
occurred, but cannot help it. I thank you gratefully, and will now
trespass on your valuable time no longer."

Mr. Ludolph, feeling that he could be of no further use, said: "You
will be back in a week, Fleet. Courage. Good-by."

Dennis turned eagerly to the doctor and said: "Can you not give me
something that will reduce the fever and keep me sane a little longer?
I know that I am going to be delirious, but would reach the refuge of
home first."

A prescription was given and immediately procured, and the doctor went
away shaking his head.

"This is the way people commit suicide. They know no more about, or
pay no more heed to, the laws of health than the laws of China. Here
is the result: This young fellow has worked in a way that would break
down a cast-iron machine, and now may never see Chicago again."

But Dennis might have worked even in his intense way for months and
years without serious harm, had not a fair white hand kept him on the
rack of uncertainty and fear.

Not work, but worry, makes havoc of health.

In the gray dawn Ethel Fleet, summoned from her rest, received her
son, weak, unconscious, muttering in delirium, and not recognizing
even her familiar face. He was indeed a sad, painful contrast to the
ruddy, buoyant youth who had left her a few short months before,
abounding in hope and life. But she comforted herself with the thought
that neither sin nor shame had brought him home.

We need not dwell on the weary weeks that followed. Dennis had every
advantage that could result from good medical skill and the most
faithful nursing. But we believe that his life lay rather in his
mother's prayers of faith. In her strong realization of the spiritual
world she would go continually into the very presence of Jesus, and
say, "Lord, he whom Thou lovest is sick"; or, like parents of old, she
would seem by her importunity to bring the Divine Physician to his
very bedside.

Mr. Bruder, too, insisted on remaining, and watched with the unwearied
faithfulness of one who felt that he owed to Dennis far more than life.
It was indeed touching to see this man, once so desperate and depraved,
now almost as patient and gentle as the mother herself, sitting by his
unconscious friend, often turning his eyes heavenward and muttering
in deep guttural German as sincere a prayer as ever passed human lips,
that Dennis might be spared.

The hand of God seemed about to take him from them, but their strong,
loving faith laid hold of that hand, and put upon it the restraint
that only reverent, believing prayer can. Dennis lived. After many
days delirium ceased, and the confused mind became clear. But during
his delirium Ethel and Mr. Bruder learned from the oft-repeated words,
"Cruel, cruel Christine!" the nature of the wound that had nearly
destroyed his life.

Mr. Ludolph was late in reaching his home on the evening after Dennis
was taken sick. Christine sat in the dusk on the ivy-shaded piazza,
awaiting him. He said, abruptly, "What have you been doing to Fleet,
over here?"

For a second her heart stood still, and she was glad the increasing
gloom disguised her face. By a great effort she replied, in a cool,
matter-of-fact tone: "I do not understand your question. Mr. Fleet was
here this afternoon, and gave some finishing touches to my studio. I
do not think I shall need him any more."

Her quiet, indifferent voice would have disarmed suspicion itself.

"It is well you do not, for he seems to have received some 'finishing
touches' himself. He fell across the threshold of the store in a dead
faint, and has gone home, threatened with a serious illness."

Even her resolute will could not prevent a sharp, startled exclamation.

"What is the matter?" said her father, hastily; "you are not going to
faint also, are you?"

"No," said Christine, quietly again; "but I am tired and nervous, and
you told your news so abruptly! Why, it seemed but a moment ago he was
here at work, and now he is dangerously ill. What an uncertain stumbling
forward in the dark life is!"

This was a style of moralizing peculiarly distasteful to Mr.
Ludolph--all the more repugnant because it seemed true, and brought
home in Dennis's experience. Anything that interfered with his plans
and interests, even though it might be God's providence, always angered
him. And now he was irritated at the loss of one of his best clerks,
just as he was becoming of great value; so he said, sharply: "I hope
you are not leaning toward the silly cant of mysterious providence.
Life is uncertain stumbling only to fools who can't see the chances
that fortune throws in their way, or recognize the plain laws of health
and success. This young Fleet has been putting two days' work in one
for the past four months, and now perhaps his work is done forever,
for the doctor looked very grave over him."

Again the shadow of night proved most friendly to Christine. Her face
had a frightened, guilty look that it was well her father did not see,
or he would have wrung from her the whole story. She felt the chill
of a terrible dread at heart. If he should die, her conscience would
give a fearful verdict against her. She stood trembling, feeling almost
powerless to move.

"Come," said her father, sharply, "I am hungry and tired."

"I will ring for lights and supper," said Christine hastily, and then
fled to her own room.

When she appeared, her father was sitting at the table impatiently
awaiting her. But her face was so white, and there was such an
expression in her eyes, that he started and said, "What is the matter?"

His question irritated her, and she replied as sharply as he had spoken.

"I told you I was tired, and I don't feel well. I have been a month
in constant effort to get this house in order, and I am worn out, I
suppose."

He looked at her keenly, but said more kindly, "Here, my dear, take
this wine"; and he poured out a glass of old port.

She drank it eagerly, for she felt she must have something that would
give her life, warmth, and courage. In a way she could not understand,
her heart sank within her.

But she saw her father was watching her, and knew she must act
skillfully to deceive him. Rallied and strengthened by the generous
wine, her resolute will was soon on its throne again, and Mr. Ludolph
with all his keen insight was no match for her. In a matter-of-fact
tone she said:

"I do not see how we have worked Mr. Fleet to death. Does he charge
anything of the kind?7'

"Oh, no! but he too seems possessed with the idea of becoming an artist.
That drunken old Bruder, whom he appears to have reformed, was giving
him lessons, and after working all day he would study much of the night
and paint as soon as the light permitted in the morning. He might have
made something if he had had a judicious friend to guide him" ("And
such you might have been," whispered her conscience), "but now he drops
away like untimely fruit."

"It is a pity," said she, coolly, and changed the subject, as if she
had dismissed it from her mind.

Mr. Ludolph believed that Dennis was no more to his daughter than a
useful clerk.

The next morning Christine rose pale and listless.

Her father said, "I will arrange my business so that we can go off on
a trip in a few days."

When left alone she sat down at her easel and tried to restore the
expression that had so delighted her on the preceding day. But she
could not. Indeed she was greatly vexed to find that her tendency was
to paint his stern and scornful look, which had made a deeper impression
on her mind than any she had even seen on his face, because so
unexpected and novel. She became irritated with herself, and cried,
fiercely: "Shame on your weakness! You are unworthy of your blood and
ancestry. I will reproduce that face as it was before he so insolently
destroyed it;" and she bent over her easel with an expression not at
all in harmony with her work. Unconsciously she made a strange contrast,
with her severe, hard face and compressed lips, to the look of love
and pleading she sought to paint. For several days she wrought with
resolute purpose, but found that her inspiration was gone.

At last she threw down her brush in despair, and cried: "I cannot catch
it again. The wretch either smiles or frowns upon me. I fear he was
right: I have made my first and last success;" and she leaned her head
sullenly and despairingly on her hand. Again the whole scene passed
before her, and she dwelt upon every word, as she was beginning often
to do now, in painful revery. When she came to the words, "I too mean
to be an artist. I could show you a picture that would tell you far
more of what I mean than can my poor words" she started up, and, hastily
arraying herself for the street, was soon on her way to the Art
Building.

No one heeded her movements there, and she went directly upstairs to
his room. Though simple and plain, it had unmistakably been the abode
of a gentleman and a person of taste. It was partially dismantled, and
in disorder from his hasty departure, and she found nothing which
satisfied her quest there. She hastened away, glad to escape from a
place where everything seemed full of mute reproach, and next bent her
steps to the top floor of the building. In a part half-filled with
antiquated lumber, and seldom entered, she saw near a window facing
the east an easel with canvas upon it. She was startled at the throbbing
of her heart.

"It is only climbing these long stairs," she said; but her words were
belied by the hesitating manner and eager face with which she approached
and removed the covering from the canvas.

She gazed a moment and then put out her hand for something by which
to steady herself. His chair was near, and she sank into it, exclaiming:
"He has indeed painted more than he--more than any one--could put into
words. He has the genius that I have not. All here is striking and
original;" and she sat with her eyes riveted to a painting that had
revealed to her--herself.

Here was the secret of Dennis's toil and early work. Here were the
results of his insatiable demand for the incongruous elements of ice
and sunlight.

Side by side were two emblematic pictures. In the first there opened
before Christine a grotto of ice. The light was thin and cold but very
clear. Stalactites hung glittering from the vaulted roof. Stalagmites
in strange fantastic forms rose to meet them. Vivid brightness and
beauty were on every side, but of that kind that threw a chill on the
beholder. All was of cold blue ice, and so natural was it that the eye
seemed to penetrate its clear crystal. To the right was an opening in
the grotto, through which was caught a glimpse of a summer landscape,
a vivid contrast to the icy cave.

But the main features of the picture were two figures. Sleeping on a
couch of ice was the form of a young girl. The flow of the drapery,
the contour of the form, was grace itself, and yet all was ice. But
the face was the most wonderful achievement. Christine saw her own
features, as beautiful as in her vainest moments she had ever dared
to hope. So perfect was the portrait that the delicate blue veins
branched across the temple in veiled distinctness. It was a face that
lacked but two things, life and love; and yet in spite of all its
beauty the want of these was painfully felt--all the more painfully,
even as a lovely face in death awakens a deeper sadness and regret.

One little icy hand grasped a laurel wreath, also of ice. The other
hand hung listless, half open, and from it had dropped a brush that
formed a small stalagmite at her side.

Bending over her in most striking contrast was the figure of a young
man, all instinct with life, power, and feeling. Though the face was
turned away, Dennis had suggested his own form and manner. His left
hand was extended toward the sleeping maiden, as if to awaken her,
while with the right he pointed toward the opening through which was
seen the summer landscape, and his whole attitude indicated an eager
wish to rescue her. This was the first picture.

The second one was still more suggestive. At the entrance of the grotto,
which looked more cold than ever, in its partial shadow, Christine saw
herself again, but how changed! She now had a beauty which she could
not believe in--could not understand.

The icy hue and rigidity were all gone. She stood in the warm sunlight,
and seemed all warmth and life. Her face glowed with feeling, yet was
full of peace.

Instead of the barren ice, flowers were at her feet, and fruitful trees
bent over her. Birds were seen flitting through their branches. The
bended boughs, her flowing costume, and the tress of golden hair lifted
from her temple, all showed that the summer wind was blowing.

Everything, in contrast with the frozen, death-like cave, indicated
life, activity. Near her, a plane-tree, which in nature's language is
the emblem of genius, towered into the sky; around its trunk twined
the passion-flower, meaning, in Flora's tongue, "Holy love"; while
just above her head, sipping the nectar from an open blossom, was a
bright-hued butterfly, the symbol of immortality. By her side stood
the same tall, manly form, with face still averted. He was pointing,
and her eyes, softened, and yet lustrous and happy, were following
where a path wound through a long vista, in alternate light and shadow,
to a gate, that in the distance looked like a pearl. Above and beyond
it, in airy outline, rose the walls and towers of the Holy City, the
New Jerusalem.

For a long time she sat in rapt attention. Moment by moment the
paintings in their meaning grew upon her. At last her eyes filled with
tears, her bosom rose and fell with an emotion most unwonted, and in
low tones she murmured: "Heavenly delusion! and taught with the logic
I most dearly love. Oh, that I could believe it! I would give ten
thousand years of the life I am leading to know that it is true. Is
there, can there be a path that leads through light or shade to a final
and heavenly home? If this is true, in spite of all my father's keen
and seemingly convincing arguments, what a terrible mistake our life
is!"

Then her thoughts reverted to the artist.

"What have I done in driving him away with contempt in his heart for
me? I can no more affect haughty superiority to the man who painted
those pictures. Though he could not be my lover, what a friend he might
have been! I fear I shall never find his equal. Oh, this world of chaos
and confusion! What is right? What is best? _What is truth?_ He might
have taught me. But the skilful hand that portrayed those wonderful
scenes may soon turn to dust, and I shall go to my grave burdened with
the thought that I have quenched the brightest genius that will ever
shine upon me;" and she clasped her hands in an agony of regret.

Then came the thought of securing the pictures. Dropping a veil over
her red eyes, she went down and got some large sheets of paper, and
by fastening them together made a secure covering. Then she carried
the light frame with the canvas to the second floor, and, summoning
Ernst, started homeward with her treasure. The boy obeyed with
reluctance. Since the time she had surprised him out of his secret in
regard to the strawberries, he had never liked her, and now he felt
that in some way she was the cause of the sickness of his dearest
friend. Christine could not bear the reproach of his large, truthful
eyes, and their walk was a silent one. At parting she handed him a
banknote, but he shook his head.

"Have you heard from Mr. Fleet?" she asked, with a flush.

The boy's lip quivered at the mention of that name, and he answered,
hastily: "Fader wrote moder Mr. Fleet was no better. I fear he die;"
and in an agony of grief he turned and ran sobbing away.

From under her veil Christine's tears were falling fast also, and she
entered her elegant home as if it had been a prison.



CHAPTER XXXIV

REGRET


The next day was the Sabbath, and a long, dreary one it was to
Christine. But late in the afternoon Susie Winthrop came with a pale,
troubled face.

"Oh, Christine, have you heard the news?" she exclaimed.

Christine's heart stood still with fear, but by a great effort she
said, composedly, "What news?"

"Mr. Fleet has gone home very ill; indeed, he is not expected to live."

For a moment she did not answer, and when she did it was with a voice
unnaturally hard and cold: "Have you heard what is the matter?"

Miss Winthrop wondered at her manner, but replied, "Brain fever, I am
told."

"Is he delirious?" asked Christine, in a low tone.

"Yes, all the time. Ernst, the little office-boy, told me he did not
know his own mother. It seems that the boy's father is with Mrs. Fleet,
helping take care of him."

Christine's face was averted and so colorless that it seemed like
marble.

"Oh, Christine, don't you care?" said Susie, springing up and coming
toward her.

"Why should I care?" was the quick answer.

Susie could not know that it was in reality but an incoherent cry of
pain--the blind, desperate effort of pride to shield itself. But the
tone checked her steps and filled her face with reproach.

"Perhaps you have more reason to care than you choose to admit," she
said, pointedly.

Christine flushed, but said, coldly: "Of course I feel an interest in
the fate of Mr. Fleet, as I do in that of every passing acquaintance.
I feel very sorry for him and his friends"; but never was sympathy
expressed in a voice more unnaturally frigid.

Susie looked at her keenly, and again saw the tell-tale flush rising
to her cheek. She was puzzled, but saw that her friend had no confidence
to give, and she said, with a voice growing somewhat cold also: "Well,
really, Christine, I thought you capable of seeing as much as the rest
of us in such matters, but I must be mistaken, if you only recognized
in Dennis Fleet a passing acquaintance. Well, if he dies I doubt if
either you or I look upon his equal again. Under right influences he
might have been one of the first and most useful men of his day. But
they need not tell me it was overwork that killed him. I know it was
trouble of some kind."

Christine was very pale, but said nothing; and Susie, pained and
mystified that the confidence of other days was refused, bade her
friend a rather cold and abrupt adieu.

Left alone, Christine bowed her white face in her hands and sat so
still that it seemed as if life had deserted her. In her morbid state
she began to fancy herself the victim of some terrible fatality. Her
heart had bounded when Susie Winthrop was announced, believing that
from her she would gain sympathy; but in strange perversity she had
hidden her trouble from her friend, and permitted her to go away in
coldness. Christine could see as quickly and as far as any, and from
the first had noted that Dennis was very interesting to her friend.
Until of late she had not cared, but now for some reason the fact was
not pleasing, and she felt a sudden reluctance to speak to Susie of
him.

Now that she was alone a deeper sense of isolation came over her than
she had ever felt before. Her one confidential friend had departed,
chilled and hurt. She made friends but slowly, and, having once become
estranged, from her very nature she found it almost impossible to make
the first advances toward reconciliation.

Soon she heard her father's steps, and fled to her room to nerve herself
for the part she must act before him. But she was far from successful;
her pale face and abstracted manner awakened his attention and his
surmises as to the cause. Having an engagement out, he soon left her
to welcome solitude; for when she was in trouble he was no source of
help or comfort.

Monday dragged wearily to a close. She tried to work, but could not.
She took up the most exciting book she could find, only to throw it
down in despair. Forever before the canvas or the page would rise a
pale thin face, at times stern and scornful, again full of reproach,
and then of pleading.

Even at night her rest was disturbed, and in dreams she heard the
mutterings of his delirium, in which he continually charged her with
his death. At times she would take his picture from its place of
concealment, and look at it with such feelings as would be awakened
by a promise of some priceless thing now beyond reach forever. Then
she would become irritated with herself, and say, angrily: "What is
this man to me? Why am I worrying about one who never could be much
more to me living than dead? I will forget the whole miserable affair."

But she could not forget. Tuesday morning came, but no relief. "Whether
he lives or dies he will follow me to my grave!" she cried. "From the
time I first spoke to him there has seemed no escape, and in strange,
unexpected ways he constantly crosses my path!"

She felt that she must have some relief from the oppression on her
spirit. Suddenly she thought of Ernst, and at once went to the store
and asked if he had heard anything later. He had not, but thought that
his mother would receive a letter that day.

"I want to see your father's picture, and will go home that way, if
you will give me the number."

The boy hesitated, but at last complied with her wish.

A little later Christine knocked at Mr. Bruder's door. There was no
response, though she heard a stifled sound within. After a little she
knocked more loudly. Then the door slowly opened, and Mrs. Bruder stood
before her. Her eyes were very red, and she held in her hand an open
letter. Christine expected to find more of a lady than was apparent
at first glance in the hard-working woman before her, so she said, "My
good woman, will you tell Mrs. Bruder I would like to see her?"

"Dis is Mrs. Bruder," was the answer.

Then Christine noticed the letter, and the half-effaced traces of
emotion, and her heart misgave her; but she nerved herself to say, "I
came to see your husband's picture."

"It is dere," was the brief reply.

Christine began to expatiate on its beauty, though perhaps for the
first time she looked at a fine picture without really seeing it. She
was at a loss how to introduce the object of her visit, but at last
said, "Your husband is away?"

"Yes."

"He is taking care of one of my father's--of Mr. Fleet, I am told.
Have you heard from him as to Mr. Fleet's health?"

"Dis is Miss Ludolph?"

"Yes."

"You can no read Sherman?"

"Oh, yes, I can. German is my native tongue."

"Strange dot him should be so."

"Why?"

"Der Shermans haf hearts."

Christine flushed deeply, but Mrs. Bruder without a word put her
husband's letter into her hand, and Christine read eagerly what,
translated, is as follows:

"MY DEAR WIFE--Perhaps before this reaches you our best friend, our
human savior, will be in heaven. There is a heaven, I believe as I
never did before; and when Mrs. Fleet prays the gate seems to open,
and the glory to stream right down upon us. But I fear now that not
even her prayers can keep him. Only once he knew her; then he smiled
and said, 'Mother, it is all right,' and dropped asleep. Soon fever
came on again, and he is sinking fast. The doctor shakes his head and
gives no hope. My heart is breaking. Marguerite, Mr. Fleet is not dying
a natural death; he has been slain. I understand all his manner now,
all his desperate hard work. He loved one above him in wealth--none
could be above him in other respects--and that one was Miss Ludolph.
I suspected it, though till delirious, he scarcely ever mentioned her
name. But now I believe she played with his heart--the noblest that
ever beat--and then threw it away, as if it were a toy instead of the
richest offering ever made to a woman. Proud fool that she was; she
has done more mischief than a thousand such frivolous lives as hers
can atone for. I can write no more; my heart is breaking with grief
and indignation."

As Christine read she suffered her veil to drop over her face. When
she looked up she saw that Mrs. Bruder's gaze was fixed upon her as
upon the murderer of her best friend. She drew her veil closer about
her face, laid the letter down, and left the room without a word. She
felt so guilty and miserable on her way home that it would scarcely
have surprised her had a policeman arrested her for the crime with
which her own conscience, as well as Mr. Bruder's letter, charged her;
and yet her pride revolted at it all.

"Why should this affair take so miserable a form with me?" she said.
"To most it ends with a few sentimental sighs on one side, and as a
good joke on the other. All seems to go wrong of late, and I am destined
to have everything save happiness and the success upon which I set my
heart. There is no more cruel mockery than to give one all save the
very thing one wants; and, in seeking to grasp that, I have brought
down upon myself this wretched, blighting experience. On this chaotic
world! The idea of there being a God! Why, I could make a better world
myself!" and she reached her home in such a morbid, unhappy state,
that none in the great city need have envied the rich and flattered
girl. Mechanically she dressed and came down to dinner.

During the afternoon Ernst, while out on an errand, had slipped home
and heard the sad news. He returned to Mr. Ludolph's office crying.
To the question, "What is the matter?" he had answered, "Oh, Mr. Fleet
is dying; he is dead by dis time!"

Mr. Ludolph was sadly shocked and pained, for as far as he could like
anybody besides himself and daughter, he had been prepossessed in favor
of his useful and intelligent clerk, and he was greatly annoyed at the
thought of losing him. He returned full of the subject, and the first
words with which he greeted Christine were, "Well, Fleet will hang no
more pictures for you, and sing no more songs."

She staggered into a chair and sat before him pale and panting, for
she thought he meant that death had taken place.

"Why, what is the matter?" cried he.

She stared at him gaspingly, but said nothing.

"Here, drink this," he said, hastily pouring out a glass of wine.

She took it eagerly. After a moment he said: "Christine, I do not
understand all this. I was merely saying that my clerk, Mr. Fleet, was
not expected--"

The point of endurance and guarded self-control was past, and she
cried, half-hysterically: "Am I never to escape that man? Must every
one I meet speak to me as if I had murdered him?"

Then she added, almost fiercely: "Living or dead, never speak to me
of him again! I am no longer a child, but a woman, and as such I insist
that his name be dropped between us forever!"

Her father gave a low exclamation of surprise, and said, "What! was
he one of the victims?" (this being his term for Christine's rejected
suitors).

"No," said she; "I am the victim. He will soon be at rest, while I
shall be tormented to the grave by--" She hardly knew what to say, so
mingled and chaotic were her feelings. Her hands clenched, and with
a stamp of her foot she hastily left the room.

Mr. Ludolph could hardly believe his eyes. Could this passionate,
thoroughly aroused woman be his cold, self-contained daughter? He could
not understand, as so many cannot, that such natures when aroused are
tenfold more intense than those whom little things excite. A long and
peculiar train of circumstances, a morbid and overwrought physical
condition, led to this outburst from Christine, which was as much a
cause of surprise to herself afterward as to her father. He judged
correctly that a great deal had occurred between Dennis and herself
of which he had no knowledge, and again his confidence in her was
thoroughly shaken.

At first he determined to question her and extort the truth. But when,
an hour later, she quietly entered the parlor, he saw at a glance that
the cold, proud, self-possessed woman before him would not submit to
the treatment accepted by the little Christine of former days. The
wily man read from her manner and the expression of her eye that he
might with her consent lead, but could not command without awakening
a nature as imperious as his own.

He was angry, but he had time to think. Prudence had given a decided
voice in favor of caution.

He saw what she did not recognize herself, that her heart had been
greatly touched, and in his secret soul he was not sorry now to
believe that Dennis was dying.

"Father," said Christine, abruptly, "how soon can we start on our
eastern trip?"

"Well, if you particularly wish it," he replied, "I can leave by the
evening train to-morrow."

"I do wish it very much," said Christine, earnestly, "and will be
ready."

After an evening of silence and constraint they separated for the
night.

Mr. Ludolph sat for a long time sipping his wine after she had gone.

"After all it will turn out for the best," he said. "Fleet will probably
die, and then will be out of the way. Or, if he lives, I can easily
guard against him, and it will go no further. If she had been bewitched
by a man like Mr. Mellen, the matter would have been more difficult.

"In truth," he continued, after a little, "now that her weak woman's
heart is occupied by an impossible lover, there is no danger from
possible ones;" and the man of the world went complacently to his rest,
believing that what he regarded as the game of life was entirely in
his own hands.

The next evening the night express bore Christine from the scene of
the events she sought to escape; but she was to learn, in common with
the great host of the sinning and suffering, how little change of place
has to do with change of feeling. We take memory and character with
us from land to land, from youth to age, from this world to the other,
from time through eternity. Sad, then, is the lot of those who ever
carry the elements of their own torture with them.

It was Christine's purpose, and she had her father's consent, to make
a long visit in New York, and, in the gayety and excitement of the
metropolis, to forget her late wretched experience.

As it was still early in September, they resolved to stop at West Point
and participate in the gayest season of that fashionable watering-place.
At this time the hotels are thronged with summer tourists returning
homeward from the more northern resorts. Though the broad piazzas of
Cozzens's great hotel were crowded by the _elite_ of the city, there was
a hum of admiration as Christine first made her round on her father's
arm; and in the evening, when the spacious parlor was cleared for
dancing, officers from the post and civilians alike eagerly sought
her hand, and hundreds of admiring eyes followed as she swept through
the mazes of the dance, the embodiment of grace and beauty. She was
very gay, and her repartee was often brilliant, but a close observer
would have seen something forced and unnatural in all. Such an observer
was her father. He saw that the sparkle of her eyes had no more heart
and happiness in it than that of the diamonds on her bosom, and that
with the whole strength of her resolute nature she was laboring to
repel thought and memory. But, as he witnessed the admiration she
excited on every side, he became more determined than ever that his
fair daughter should shine a star of the first magnitude in the
_salons_ of Europe. At a late hour, and wearied past the power
of thought, she gladly sought refuge in the blank of sleep.

The next morning they drove out early, before the sun was high and
warm. It was a glorious autumn day. Recent rains had purified the
atmosphere, so that the unrivalled scenery of the Hudson stood out in
clear and grand outline.

As Christine looked about her she felt a thrill of almost delight--the
first sensation of the kind since that moment of exultation which
Dennis had inspired, but which he had also turned to the bitterness
of disaster and humiliation. She was keenly alive to beauty, and she
saw it on every side. The Ludolph family had ever lived among the
mountains on the Rhine, and the heart of this latest child of the race
yearned over the rugged scenery before her with hereditary affection,
which had grown stronger with each successive generation.

The dew, like innumerable pearls, gemmed the grass in the park-like
lawn of the hotel, and the slanting rays of the sun flecked the
luxuriant foliage. Never before had this passion for the beautiful in
nature been so gratified, and all the artist feeling within her awoke.

On reaching the street the carriage turned southward, and, after passing
the village of Highland Falls, entered on one of the most beautiful
drives in America. At times the road led under overarching forest-trees,
shaded and dim with that delicious twilight which only myriads of
fluttering leaves can make. Again it would wind around some bold
headland, and the broad expanse of the Hudson would shine out dotted
with white sails. Then through a vista its waters would sparkle,
suggesting an exquisite cabinet picture. On the right the thickly-wooded
mountains rose like emerald walls, with here and there along their
base a quiet farmhouse. With kindling eye and glowing cheeks she drank
in view after view, and at last exclaimed, "If there were only a few
old castles scattered among these Highlands, this would be the very
perfection of scenery."

Her father watched her closely, and with much satisfaction.

"After all, her wound is slight," he thought, "and new scenes and
circumstances will soon cause her to forget."

Furtively, but continually, he bent his eyes upon her, as if to read
her very soul. A dreamy, happy expression rested on her face, as if
a scene were present to her fancy even more to her taste than the one
her eyes dwelt upon. In fact she was living over that evening at Miss
Winthrop's, when Dennis had told her that she could reach truest and
highest art--that she could feel--could copy anything she saw; and
exhilarated by the fresh morning air, inspired by the scenery, she
felt for the moment, as never before, that it might all be true.

Was he who gave those blissful assurances also exerting a subtile,
unrecognized power over her? Certainly within the last few weeks she
had been subject to strange moods and reveries. But the first dawning
of a woman's love is like the aurora, with its strange, fitful flashes.
The phenomena have never been satisfactorily explained.

But, as Mr. Ludolph watched complacently and admiringly, her expression
suddenly changed, and a frightened, guilty look came into her face.
The glow upon her cheeks gave place to extreme pallor, and she glanced
nervously around as if fearing something, then caught her father's
eye, and was conscious of his scrutiny. She at once became cold and
self-possessed, and sat at his side pale and quiet till the ride ended.
But he saw from the troubled gleam of her eyes that beneath that calm
exterior were tumult and suffering. Few in this life are so guilty and
wretched as not to have moments of forgetfulness, when the happier
past comes back and they are oblivious of the painful present. Such
a brief respite Christine enjoyed during part of her morning ride. The
grand and swiftly varying scenery crowded her mind with pleasant images,
which had been followed by a delicious revery. She felt herself to be
a true priestess of Nature, capable of understanding and interpreting
her voices and hidden meanings--of catching her evanescent beauty and
fixing it on the glowing canvas. The strong consciousness of such power
was indeed sweet and intoxicating. Her mind naturally reverted to him
who had most clearly asserted her possession of it.

"He, too, would have equal appreciation of this scenery," she said to
herself.

Then came the sudden remembrance, shrivelling her pretty dreams as the
lightning scorches and withers.

"_He--he is dead!--he must be by this time!_"

And dread and guilt and something else which she did not define, but
which seemed more like a sense of great loss, lay heavy at her heart.
No wonder her father was perplexed and provoked by the sad change in
her face. At first he was inclined to remonstrate and put spurs to her
pride. But there was a dignity about the lady at his side, even though
she was his daughter, that embarrassed and restrained him. Moreover,
though he understood much and suspected far more--more indeed than the
truth--there was nothing acknowledged or tangible that he could lay
hold of, and she meant that it should be so. For reasons she did not
understand she felt a disinclination to tell her troubles to Susie
Winthrop, and she was most resolute in her purpose never to permit her
father to speak on the subject.

If Mr. Ludolph had been as coarse and ignorant as he was hard and
selfish, he would have gone to work at the case with sledge-hammer
dexterity, as many parents have done, making sad, brutal havoc in
delicate womanly natures with which they were no more fit to deal than
a blacksmith with hair-springs. But though he longed to speak, and
bring his remorseless logic to bear, Christine's manner raised a barrier
which a man of his fine culture could not readily pass.

She joined her father at a late breakfast, smiling and brilliant, but
her gayety was clearly forced. The morning was spent in sketching, she
seeming to crave constant occupation or excitement.

In the afternoon father and daughter drove up the river to the military
grounds to witness a drill. Mr. Ludolph did his best to rally Christine,
pointing out everything of interest. First, the grand old ruin of Fort
Putnam frowned down upon them. This had been the one feature wanting,
and Christine felt that she could ask nothing more. Her wonder and
admiration grew as the road wound along the immediate bluff and around
the plain by the river fortifications. But when she stood on the piazza
of the West Point Hotel, and looked up through the Highlands toward
Newburgh, tears came to her eyes, and she trembled with excitement.
From her recent experiences her nerves were morbidly sensitive. But
her father could only look and wonder, she seemed so changed to him.

"And is the Rhine like this?" she asked.

"Well, the best I can say is, that to a German and a Ludolph it seems
just as beautiful," he replied.

"Surely," said she, slowly and in half-soliloquy, "if one could live
always amid such scenes as these, the Elysium of the gods or the heaven
of the Christians would offer few temptations."

"And among just such scenes you shall live after a short year passes,"
he answered, warmly and confidently. But with anger he missed the
wonted sparkle of her eyes when these cherished plans were broached.

In bitterness Christine said to herself: "A few weeks since this thought
would have filled me with delight. Why does it not now?"

Silently they drove to the parade-ground. At the sally-port of the
distant barracks bayonets were gleaming. There was a burst of martial
music, then each class at the Academy--four companies--came out upon
the grassy plain upon the double-quick. Their motions were light and
swift, and yet so accurately timed that each company seemed one perfect
piece of mechanism. A cadet stood at a certain point with a small color
flying. Abreast of this their advance was checked as suddenly as if
they had been turned to stone, and the entire corps was in line. Then
followed a series of skilful manoeuvres, in which Christine was much
interested, and her old eager manner returned.

"I like the army," she exclaimed; "the precision and inflexible routine
would just suit me. I wish there was war, and I a man, that I might
enter into the glorious excitements."

Luxurious Mr. Ludolph had no tastes in that direction, and, shrugging
his shoulders, said: "How about the hardships, wounds, and chances of
an obscure death? These are the rule in a campaign; the glorious
excitements the exceptions."

"I did not think of those," she said, shrinking against the cushions.
"Everything seems to have so many miserable drawbacks!"

The pageantry over, the driver turned and drove northward through the
most superb scenery.

"Where are we going?" asked Christine.

"To the cemetery," was the reply.

"No, no! not there!" she exclaimed, nervously.

"Nonsense! Why not?" remonstrated her father.

"I don't wish to go there!" she cried, excitedly. "Please turn around."

Her father reluctantly gave the order, but added, "Christine, you
certainly indulge in strange moods and whims of late."

She was silent a moment, and then she began a running fire of questions
about the Academy, that left no space for explanations.

That evening she danced as resolutely as ever, and by her beauty and
brilliant repartee threw around her many bewildering spells that even
the veterans of the Point could scarcely resist.

But when alone in her own room she looked at her white face in the
mirror, and murmured in tones full of unutterable dread and remorse,
"He is dead--he must be dead by this time!"



CHAPTER XXXV

REMORSE


Christine had a peculiar experience while at West Point. She saw on
every side what would have brought her the choicest enjoyment, had her
mind been at rest. To her artist nature, and with her passion and power
for sketching, the Highlands on the Hudson were paradise. But though
she saw in profusion what once would have delighted her, and what she
now felt ought to be the source of almost unmingled happiness, she was
still thoroughly wretched. It was the old fable of Tantalus repeating
itself. Her sin and its results had destroyed her receptive power. The
world offered her pleasures on every side; she longed to enjoy them,
but could not, for her heart was preoccupied--filled and overflowing
with fear, remorse, and a sorrow she could not define.

A vain, shallow girl might soon have forgotten such an experience as
Christine had passed through. Such a creature would have been
sentimental or hysterical for a little time, according to temperament,
and then with the old zest have gone to flirting with some new victim.
There are belles so weak and wicked that they would rather plume
themselves on the fact that one had died from love of them. But in
justice to all such it should be said that they rarely have mind enough
to realize the evil they do. Their vanity overshadows every other
faculty, and almost destroys those sweet, pitiful, unselfish qualities
which make a true woman what a true man most reverences next to God.

Christine was proud and ambitious to the last degree, but she had not
this small vanity. She did not appreciate the situation fully, but she
was unsparing in her self-condemnation.

If Dennis had been an ordinary man, and interested her no more than
had other admirers, and had she given him no more encouragement, she
would have shrugged her shoulders over the result and said she was
very sorry he had made such a fool of himself.

But as she went over the past (and this now she often did), she saw
that he was unusually gifted; nay, more, the picture she discovered
in the loft of the store proved him possessed of genius of a high
order. And such a man she had deceived, tortured, and even killed!
This was the verdict of her own conscience, the assertion of his own
lips. She remembered the wearing life of alternate hope and fear she
had caused him. She remembered how eagerly he hung on her smiles and
sugared nothings, and how her equally causeless frowns would darken
all the world to him. She saw day after day how she had developed in
a strong, true heart, with its native power to love unimpaired, the
most intense passion, and all that her own lesser light might burn a
little more brightly. Then, with her burning face buried in her hands,
she would recall the bitter, shameful consummation. Worse than all,
waking or sleeping, she continually saw a pale, thin face, that even
in death looked upon her with unutterable reproach. In addition to the
misery caused by her remorse, there was a deeper bitterness still.
Within the depths of her soul a voice told her that the picture was
true; that he might have awakened her, and led her out into the warmth
and light of a happy life--a life which she felt ought to be possible,
but which as yet had been but a vague and tantalizing dream. Now the
world seemed to her utter chaos--a place of innumerable paths leading
nowhere; and her own hands had broken the clew that might have brought
her to something assured and satisfactory. She was very wretched, for
her life seemed but a little point between disappointment on one side
and the blackness of death and nothingness on the other. The very
beauty of the landscapes about her often increased her pain. She felt
that a few weeks ago she would have enjoyed them keenly, and found in
their transference to canvas a source of unfailing pleasure. With a
conscious blush she thought that if he were present to encourage, to
stimulate her, by the very vitality of his earnest, loving nature, she
would be in the enjoyment of paradise itself. In a word, she saw the
heaven she could not enter.

To the degree that she had mind, heart, conscience, and an intense
desire for true happiness, she was unhappy. Dress, dancing, the passing
admiration of society, the pleasures of a merely fashionable life,
seemed less and less satisfactory. She was beyond them, as children
outgrow their toys, because she had a native superiority to them, and
yet they seemed her best resource. She had all her old longing to
pursue her art studies, and everything about her stimulated her to
this, but her heart and hand appeared paralyzed. She was in just that
condition, mental and moral, in which she could do nothing well.

And so the days passed in futile efforts to forget--to drown in almost
reckless gayety--the voices of conscience and memory. But she only
remembered all the more vividly; she only saw the miserable truth all
the more clearly. She suffered more in her torturing consciousness
than Dennis in his wild delirium.

After they had been at the hotel about a week, Mr. Ludolph received
letters that made his speedy return necessary. On the same day the
family of his old New York partner arrived at the house on their return
from the Catskills. Mrs. Von Brakhiem gladly received Christine under
her care, feeling that the addition of such a bright star would make
her little constellation one of the most brilliant in the fashionable
world.

The ladies of the house were now immersed in the excitement of an
amateur concert. Mrs. Von Brakhiem, bent upon shining among the
foremost, though with a borrowed lustre, assigned Christine a most
prominent part. She half shrank from it, for it recalled unpleasant
memories; but she could not decline without explanations, and so entered
into the affair with a sort of recklessness.

The large parlors were filled with chairs, which were soon occupied,
and it was evident that in point of attraction elegant toilets would
vie with the music. Christine came down on her father's arm, dressed
like a princess, and, though her diamonds were few, such were their
size and brilliancy that they seemed on fire. Every eye followed Mrs.
Von Brakhiem's party, and that good lady took half the admiration to
herself.

A superior tenor, with an unpronounceable foreign name, had come up
from New York to grace the occasion. But personally he lacked every
grace himself, his fine voice being the one thing that redeemed him
from utter insignificance in mind and appearance. Nevertheless he was
vain beyond measure, and made the most of himself on all occasions.

The music was fine, for the amateurs, feeling that they had a critical
audience, did their best. Christine chose three brilliant, difficult,
but heartless pieces as her contribution to the entertainment (she
would not trust herself with anything else); and with something
approaching reckless gayety she sought to hide the bitterness at her
heart. Her splendid voice and exquisite touch doubled the admiration
her beauty and diamonds had excited, and Mrs. Von Brakhiem basked in
still stronger reflected light. She took every opportunity to make it
known that she was Miss Ludolph's chaperon.

After her first effort, the "distinguished" tenor from New York opened
his eyes widely at her; at her second, he put up his eyeglass in
something like astonishment; and the close of her last song found him
nervously rummaging a music portfolio in the corner.

But for Christine the law of association had become too strong, and
the prolonged applause recalled the evening at Miss Brown's when the
same sounds had deafened her, but when turning from it all she had
seen Dennis Fleet standing in rapt attention, his lips parted, his
eyes glowing with such an honest admiration that even then it was worth
more to her than all the clamor. Then, by the same law of association,
she again saw that eager, earnest face, changed pale, dead--dead!--and
she the cause. Regardless of the compliments lavished upon her, she
buried her face in her hands and trembled from head to foot.

But the irrepressible tenor had found what he wanted, and now came
forward asking that Miss Ludolph would sing a duet with him.

She lifted a wan and startled face. Must the torturing similarity and
still more torturing contrast of the two occasions be continued? But
she saw her father regarding her sternly--saw that she was becoming
the subject of curious glances and whispered surmises. Her pride was
aroused at once, and, goaded on by it, she said, "Oh, certainly; I am
not feeling well, but it does not signify."

"And den," put in the tenor, "dis is von grand occazeon to _you_, for it
is so unfrequent dat I find any von vorthy to sing dis style of music
vith _me_."

"What is the music?" asked Christine, coldly.

To her horror she found it the same selection from Mendelssohn that
she had sung with Dennis.

"No," she said, sharply, "I cannot sing that."

"Pardon me, my daughter, you can sing it admirably if you choose,"
interposed her father.

She turned to him imploringly, but his face was inflexible, and his
eyes had an incensed look. For a moment she, too, was angry. Had he
no mercy? She was about to decline coldly, but her friends were very
urgent and clamorous--"Please do," "Don't disappoint us," echoing on
every side. The tenor was so surprised and puzzled at her insensibility
to the honor he had conferred, that, to prevent a scene she could not
explain, she went to the piano as if led to the stake.

But the strain was too great upon her in her suffering state. The
familiar notes recalled so vividly the one who once before had sung
them at her side that she turned almost expecting to see him--but saw
only the vain little animated music-machine, who with many contortions
was producing the harmony. "Just this mockery my life will ever be,"
she thought; "all that I am, the best I can do, will always be connected
with something insignificant and commonplace. The rich, impassioned
voice of the _man_ who sang these words, and who might have taught me to
sing the song of a new and happier life, I have silenced forever."

The thought overpowered her. Just then her part recurred, but her voice
died away in a miserable quaver, and again she buried her face in her
hands. Suddenly she sprang from the piano, darted through the low-cut
open window near, and a moment later ordered her startled maid from
the room, turned the key, and was alone.

Her father explained coldly to the astonished audience and the
half-paralyzed tenor (who still stood with his mouth open) that his
daughter was not at all well that evening, and ought not to have
appeared at all. This Mrs. Von Brakhiem took up and repeated with
endless variations. But the evidences of sheer mental distress on the
part of Christine had been too clear, and countless were the whispered
surmises of the fashionable gossips in explanation.

Mrs. Von Brakhiem herself, burning with curiosity, soon retired, that
she might receive from her lovely charge some gushing confidences,
which she expected, as a matter of course, would be poured into what
she chose to regard as her sympathizing ear. But she knocked in vain
at Christine's door.

Later Mr. Ludolph knocked. There was no answer.

"Christine!" he called.

After some delay a broken voice answered, "You cannot enter--I am not
well--I have retired."

He turned on his heel and strode away, and that night drank more brandy
and water than was good for him.

As for Christine, warped and chilled though her nature had been, she
was still a woman, she was still young, and, though she knew it not,
she had heard the voice which had spoken her heart into life. Through
a chain of circumstances for which she was partly to blame, she had
been made to suffer as she had not believed was possible. The terrible
words of Mr. Bruder's letter rang continually in her ears--"Mrs. Fleet
is not dying a natural death; he has been, slain."

For many long, weary days the conviction had been growing upon her
that she had indeed slain him and mortally wounded herself. Until
to-night she had kept herself outwardly under restraint, but now the
long pent-up feeling gave way, and she sobbed as if her heart would
break--sobbed till the power to weep was gone. If now some kind,
judicious friend had shown her that she was not so guilty as she deemed
herself; that, however, frightful the consequences of such acts, she
was really not to blame for what she did not intend and could not
foresee; more than all, if she could only have known that her worst
fears about Dennis were not to be realized, and that he was now
recovering, she might at once have entered on a new and happier life.
But there was no such friend, no such knowledge, and her wounded spirit
was thrown back upon itself.

At last, robed as she had been for the evening, she fell asleep
from sheer exhaustion and grief--for grief induces sleep.

The gems that shone in her dishevelled hair; that rose and fell as at
long intervals her bosom heaved with convulsive sobs, like the fitful
gusts of a storm that is dying away; the costly fabrics she wore--made
sad mockery in their contrast with the pale, tear-stained, suffering
face. The hardest heart might have pitied her--yes, even the wholly
ambitious heart of her father, incensed as he was that a plebeian
stranger of this land should have caused such distress.

When Christine awoke, her pride awoke also. With bitterness of spirit
she recalled the events of the past evening. But a new phase of feeling
now began to manifest itself.

After her passionate outburst she was much calmer. In this respect the
unimpeded flow of feeling had done her good, and, as intimated, if
kindness and sympathy could now have added their gentle ministrations,
she might have been the better for it all her life. But, left to
herself, she again yielded to the sway of her old and worst traits.
Chief among these was pride; and under the influence of this passion
and the acute suffering of her unsoothed, unguided spirit, she began
to rebel in impotent anger. She grew hard, cynical, and reckless. Her
father's lack of sympathy and consideration alienated her heart even
from him. Left literally alone in the world, her naturally reserved
nature shut itself up more closely than ever. Even her only friend,
Susie Winthrop, drifted away. One other, who might have been--But she
could think of him only with a shudder now. All the rest seemed
indifferent, or censorious, or, worse still, to be using her, like
Mrs. Von Brakhiem and even her own father, as a stepping-stone to their
personal ambition. Christine could not see that she was to blame for
this isolation. She did not understand that cold, selfish natures,
like her own and her father's, could not surround themselves with warm,
generous friends. She saw only the fact. But with flashing eyes she
resolved that her heart's secrets should not be pried into a
hair-breadth further; that she would be used only so far as she chose.
She would, in short, "face out" the events of the past evening simply
and solely on the ground that she had not been well, and permit no
questions to be asked.

Cold and self-possessed, she came down to a late breakfast. Mrs. Von
Brakhiem, and others who had been introduced, joined her, but nothing
could penetrate through the nice polished armor of her courteous
reserve. Her father looked at her keenly, but she coolly returned his
gaze.

When alone with her soon afterward, he turned and said, sharply, "What
does all this mean?"

She looked around as if some one else were near.

"Were you addressing me?" she asked, coldly.

"Yes, of course I am," said her father, impatiently.

"From your tone and manner, I supposed you must be speaking to some
one else."

"Nonsense! I was speaking to you. What does all this mean?"

She turned on him an indescribable look, and after a moment said in
a slow, meaning tone, "Have you not heard my explanation, sir?"

Such was her manner, he felt he could as easily strike her as say
another word.

Muttering an oath, he turned on his heel and left her to herself.

The next morning her father bade her "Good-by." In parting he said,
meaningly, "Christine, beware!"

Again she turned upon him that peculiar look, and replied in a low,
firm tone: "That recommendation applies to you, also. Let us both
beware, lest we repent at leisure."

The wily man, skilled in character, was now thoroughly convinced that
in his daughter he was dealing with a nature very different from his
wife's--that he was now confronted by a spirit as proud and imperious
as his own. He clearly saw that force, threatening, sternness would
not answer in this case, and that if he carried his points it must be
through skill and cunning. By some means he must ever gain her consent
and co-operation.

His manner changed. Instinctively she divined the cause; and hers did
not. Therefore father and daughter parted as father and daughter ought
never to part.

After his departure she was to remain at West Point till the season
closed, and then accompany Mrs. Von Brakhiem to New York, where she
was to make as long a visit as she chose;--and she chose to make a
long one. In the scenery, and the society of the officers at West
Point, and the excitements of the metropolis, she found more to occupy
her thoughts than she could have done at Chicago. She went deliberately
to work to kill time and snatch from it such fleeting pleasures as she
might.

They stayed in the country till the pomp and glory of October began
to illumine the mountains, and then (to Christine's regret) went to
the city. There she entered into every amusement and dissipation that
her tastes permitted, and found much pleasure in frequent visits to
the Central Park, although it seemed tame and artificial after the
wild grandeur of the mountains. It was well that her nature was so
high-toned that she found enjoyment in only what was refined or
intellectual. Had it been otherwise she might soon have taken, in her
morbid, reckless state, a path to swift and remediless ruin, as many
a poor creature all at war with happiness and truth has done. And thus
in a giddy whirl of excitement (Mrs. Von Brakhiem's normal condition)
the days and weeks passed, till at last, thoroughly satiated and jaded,
she concluded to return home, for the sake of change and quiet, if
nothing else. Mrs. Von Brakhiem parted with her regretfully. Where
would she find such another ally in her determined struggle to be
talked about and envied a little more than some other pushing, jostling
votaries of fashion?

In languor or sleep Christine made the journey, and in the dusk of a
winter's day her father drove her to their beautiful home, which from
association was now almost hateful to her. Still she was too weary to
think or suffer much. They met each other very politely, and their
intercourse assumed at once its wonted character of high-bred courtesy,
though perhaps it was a little more void of manifested sympathy and
affection than before.

Several days elapsed in languid apathy, the natural reaction of past
excitement; then an event occurred which most thoroughly aroused her.



CHAPTER XXXVI

AN APPARITION


Mr. Ludolph had hoped to hear on his return that Dennis was dead. That
would end all difficulties. Mr. Schwartz did not know;--he was not at
last accounts. Ernst was summoned. With a bright, hopeful face he
stated that his mother had just received a letter saying Dennis was
a little better. He was much surprised at his employer's heavy frown.

"He will live," mused Mr. Ludolph; "and now shall I permit him to
return to my employ, or discharge him?"

His brow contracted in lines of thought that suggested shrewdness,
cunning, nothing manly, and warily he judged.

"If I do not take him, he will go to Mr. French with certainty. He had
better return, for then both he and Christine will be more thoroughly
under my surveillance.

"Curses on Christine's waywardness! There may be no resisting her, and
my best chance will be in managing him. This I could not do if he were
in the store of my rival;" and so for unconscious Dennis this
important question was decided.

At last, as we have said, his delirium ceased, and the quiet light of
reason came into his eyes. He looked at his mother and smiled, but was
too weak even to reach out his hand.

The doctor, coming in soon after, declared danger past, and that all
depended now on good nursing. Little fear of his wanting that!

"Ah, mine Gott be praised! mine Gott be praised!" exclaimed Mr. Bruder,
who had to leave the room to prevent an explosion of his grateful,
happy feelings that might have proved too rude a tempest for Dennis
in his weak state. He was next seen striding across the fields to a
neighboring grove, ejaculating as he went. When he returned his eyes
shone with a great peace and joy, and he had evidently been with Him
who had cast out the demon from his heart.

Day after day Dennis rallied. Unlike poor Christine, he had beneath
him the two strongest levers, love and prayer, and steadily they lifted
him up to health and strength and comparative peace. At last he was
able to sit up and walk about feebly, and Mr. Bruder returned rejoicing
to his family. As he wrung Dennis's hand at parting, he said, in rather
a hoarse voice: "If any von tell me Gott is not goot and heareth not
prayer, den I tell him he von grand heathen. Oh! but we vill velcome
you soon. Ve vill haf de grandest supper, de grandest songs, de
grandest--" but just here Mr. Bruder thought it prudent to pull his
big fur cap over his eyes, and make a rush for the stage.

As if by tacit understanding, Christine's name had not been mentioned
during Dennis's recovery. But one evening, after the little girls had
been put to bed, and the lamp shaded, he sat in the dimly lighted room,
looking fixedly for a long time at the glowing embers. His mother was
moving quietly about, putting away the tea-things, clearing up after
the children's play; but as she worked she furtively watched him. At
last coming to his side she pushed back the hair that seemed so dark
in contrast with the thin, white face and said, gently, "You are
thinking of Miss Ludolph, Dennis."

He had some blood yet, for that was not the glow of the fire that
suffused his cheek; but he only answered, quietly, "Yes, mother."

"Do you think you can forget her?"

"I don't know."

"Prayer is a mighty thing, my son."

"But perhaps it is not God's will that I should ever win her," said
Dennis, despondently.

"Then surely it is not yours, my child."

"No, mother," said Dennis, with bowed head and low tone, "but yet I
am human and weak."

"You would still wish that it were His will?"

"Yes; I could not help it."

"But you would submit?"

"Yes, with His help I would," firmly.

"That is sufficient, my boy; I have such confidence in God that I know
this matter will result in a way to secure you the greatest happiness
in the end."

But after a little time he sighed, wearily, "Yet how hard it is to
wait till the great plan is worked out!"

Solemnly she quoted-"God will render to every man according to his
deeds. To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory
and honor and immortality, eternal life."

Braced by the stirring words of inspiration, strengthened by his
mother's faith, he looked up after a moment and said, earnestly, "At
any rate I will try to be a _man in your sense of the word_, and that is
saying a great deal."

She beamed at him through her spectacles over her knitting-needles;
and he thought, as he gazed fondly at her, that in spite of her quaint,
old-fashioned garb, and homely occupation, she appeared more truly a
saint than any painted on cathedral windows.

He soon noticed that his mother had grown feeble, and he determined
to take her with him on his return, believing that, by his care, and
the wise use of tonics, he could restore her to her wonted strength.
His increased salary now justified the step.

Early in November his physician said he might return to business if
he would be prudent. He gladly availed himself of the permission, for
he longed to be employed again.

The clerks all welcomed him warmly, for his good-nature had disarmed
jealousy at his rapid rise. But in the greeting of Mr. Ludolph he
missed something of the cordiality he expected.

"Perhaps she has told him," thought he; and at once his own manner
became tinged with a certain coldness and dignity. He determined that
both father and daughter should think of him only with respect.

At the Bruders' the millennium came with Dennis. Metaphorically the
fatted calf was killed; their plain little room was trimmed with
evergreens, and when he entered he was greeted by such a jubilant,
triumphant chorus of welcomes as almost took away his breath. What
little he had left was suddenly squeezed out of him; for Mrs. Bruden,
dropping her frying-pan and dish-cloth, rushed upon him, exclaiming,
"Ah! mine fren! mine fren! De goot Gott be praised;" and she gave him
an embrace that made his bones ache.

Mr. Bruder stalked about the room repeating with explosive energy,
like minute-guns, "Praise Gott! Praise Gott!" Ernst, his great eyes
dimmed with happy tears, clung to Dennis's hand, as if he would make
sure, by sense of touch as well as sight, that he had regained his
beloved teacher. The little Bruders were equally jubilant, though from
rather mixed motives. Dennis's arrival was very well, but they could
not keep their round eyes long off the preparations for such a supper
as never before had blessed their brief career.

"Truly," thought Dennis, as he looked around upon the happy family,
and contrasted its appearance with that which it had presented when
he first saw it, "my small investment of kindness and effort in this
case has returned large interest. I think it pays to do good."

The evening was one of almost unmingled happiness, even to his sore,
disappointed heart, and passed into memory as among the sunniest places
of his life.

He found a pleasant little cottage over on the West side, part of which
he rented for his mother and sisters.

With Mr. Ludolph's permission he went after them, and installed them
in it. Thus he had what he had needed all along--a home, a resting-place
for body and soul, under the watchful eye of love.

About this time Dr. Arten met him, stared a moment, then clapped him
on the back in his hearty way, saying, "Well, well, young man! you
have cause to be thankful, and not to the doctors, either."

"I think I am," said Dennis, smiling.

Suddenly the doctor looked grave, and asked in a stern voice, "Are you
a heathen, or a good Christian?"

"I hope not the former," replied Dennis, a little startled.

"Then don't go and commit suicide again. Don't you know flesh and blood
can only stand so much? When an intelligent young fellow like you goes
beyond that, he is committing suicide. Bless your soul, my ambitious
friend, the ten commandments ain't all the law of God. His laws are
also written all over this long body of yours, and you came near paying
a pretty penalty for breaking them. You won't get off the second time."

"You are right, doctor; I now see that I acted very wrongly."

"'Bring forth fruits meet for repentance.' I am rich enough to give
sound advice," said the brusque old physician, passing on.

"Stop a moment, doctor," cried Dennis, "I want you to see my mother."

"What is the matter with her? She been breaking the commandments, too?"

"Oh, no!" exclaimed Dennis. "She is not a bit of a heathen."

"I am not so sure about that. I know many eminent saints in the church
who will eat lobster salad for supper, and then send for the doctor
and minister before morning. There is a precious twaddle about
'mysterious Providence.' Providence isn't half so mysterious as people
make out. The doctor is expected to look serious and sympathetic, and
call their law-breaking and its penalty by some outlandish Latin name
that no one can understand. I give 'em the square truth, and tell 'em
they've been breaking the commandments."

Dennis could not forbear smiling at the doctor's rough handling of
humbug, even in one of its most respectable guises. Then, remembering
his mother, he added, gravely: "I am truly anxious about my mother,
she has grown so feeble. I want, and yet dread, the truth."

The bantering manner of the good old doctor changed at once, and he
said, kindly, "I'll come, my boy, within a few days, though I am nearly
run off my feet."

He went off, muttering, "Why don't the people send for some of the
youngsters that sit kicking up their heels in their offices all day?"

Dennis soon fell into the routine of work and rapidly grew stronger.
But his face had acquired a gravity, a something in expression that
only experience gives, which made him appear older by ten years. All
trace of the boy had gone, and his countenance was now that of the
man, and of one who had suffered.

As soon as he recovered sufficient strength to act with decision, he
indignantly tried to banish Christine's image from his memory. But he
found this impossible. Though at times his eyes would flash, in view
of her treatment, they would soon grow gentle and tender, and he found
himself excusing and extenuating, by the most special pleadings, that
which he had justly condemned.

One evening his mother startled him out of a long revery, in which he
had almost vindicated Christine, by saying, "A very pleasant smile has
been gradually dawning on your face, my son."

"Mother," replied he, hesitatingly, "perhaps I have judged Miss Ludolph
harshly."

"Your love, not your reason, has evidently been pleading for her."

"Well, mother, I suppose you are right."

"So I suppose the Divine love pleads for the weak and sinful," said
Mrs. Fleet, dreamily.

"That is a very pleasant thought, mother, for sometimes it seems that
my love could make black white."

"That the Divine love has done, but at infinite cost to itself."

"Oh that my love at any cost to itself could lead her into the new
life of the believer!" said Dennis, in a low, earnest tone.

"Your love is like the Divine in being unselfish, but remember the
vital differences and take heed. God _can_ change the nature of the
imperfect creature that He loves. You cannot. His love is infinite
in its strength and patience. You are human. The proud, selfish,
unbelieving Miss Ludolph (pardon mother's plain words) could not make
you happy. To the degree that you were loyal to God, you would be
unhappy, and I should surely dread such a union. The whole tone of
your moral character would have to be greatly lowered to permit even
peace."

"But, mother," said Dennis, almost impatiently, "in view of my
unconquerable love, it is nearly the same as if I were married to her
now."

"No, my son, I think not. I know your pretty theory on this subject,
but it seems more pretty than true. Marriage makes a vital difference.
It is the closest union that we can voluntarily form on earth, and is
the emblem of the spiritual oneness of the believer's soul with Christ.
We may be led through circumstances, as you have been, to love one
with whom we should not form such a union. Indeed, in the true and
mystic meaning of the rite, you could not marry Christine Ludolph. The
Bible declares that man and wife shall be one. Unless she changes,
unless you change (and that God forbid), this could not be. You would
be divided, separated in the deepest essentials of your life here, and
in every respect hereafter. Again, while God loves every sinful man
and woman, He does not take them to His heart till they cry out to Him
for strength to abandon the destroying evil He hates. There are
no unchanged, unrenewed hearts in heaven."

"Oh, mother, how inexorable is your logic!" said Dennis, breathing
heavily.

"Truth in the end is ever more merciful than falsehood," she answered,
gently.

After a little, he said, with a heavy sigh, "Mother, you are right,
and I am very weak and foolish."

She looked at him with unutterable tenderness. She could not crush out
all hope, and so whispered, as before: "Prayer is mighty, my child.
It is not wrong for you to love. It is your duty, as well as privilege,
to pray for her. Trust your Heavenly Father, do His will, and He will
solve this question in the very best way."

Dennis turned to his mother in sudden and passionate earnestness, and
said: "Your prayers are mighty, mother, I truly believe. Oh, pray
for her--for my sake as well as hers. Looking from the human side, I am
hopeless. It is only God's almighty power that can make us, as you
say, truly one. I fear that now she is only a heartless, fashionable
girl. Yet, if she is only this, I do not see how I came to love her
as I do. But my trust now is in your prayers to God."

"And in your own also: the great Father loves you, too, my son. If He
chooses that the dross in her character should be burned away, and
your two lives fused, there are in His providence just the fiery trials,
just the circumstances that will bring it about." (Was she unconsciously
uttering a prophecy?) "The crucible of affliction, the test of some
great emergency, will often develop a seemingly weak and frivolous
girl into noble life, where there is real gold of latent worth to be
acted on."

"Christine Ludolph is anything but weak and frivolous," said he. "Her
character is strong, and I think most decided in its present bent. But
as you say, if the Divine Alchemist wills it, He can change even the
dross to gold, and turn unbelief to faith."

Hope, Christine! There is light coming, though as yet you cannot see
it. There are angels of mercy flying toward you, though you cannot
hear the rustle of their wings. The dark curtain of death and despair
can never shut down upon a life linked to heaven by such true, strong
prayer. And yet the logical results of wrong-doing will work themselves
out, sin must be punished and faith sorely tried.

Dennis heard incidentally that Christine was absent on a visit to New
York, but he knew nothing of the time of her return.

He now bent himself steadily and resolutely to the mastering of his
business, and under Mr. Bruder's direction resumed his art studies,
though now in such moderation as Dr. Arten would commend.

He also entered on an artistic effort that would tax his powers and
genius to the very utmost, of which more anon.

By the time Christine returned, he was quite himself again, though
much paler and thinner than when he first entered the store.

After Christine had been at home nearly a week, her father, to rouse
her out of her listlessness, said one morning: "We have recently
received quite a remarkable painting from Europe. You will find it in
the upper show-room, and had better come down to-day to see it, for
it may be sold soon. I think you would like to copy one or two figures
in it."

The lassitude from her New York dissipation was passing away, and her
active nature beginning to assert itself again. She started up and
said, "Wait five minutes and I will get sketching materials and go
down with you."

By reason of her interdict, made at West Point, so earnestly, and
indeed fiercely, and confirmed by her manner, her father had never
mentioned the name of Dennis Fleet. The very fact that no one had
spoken of him since that dreadful day when tidings came in on every
side that he could not live was confirmation in her mind that he was
dead.

She dreaded going to the store, especially for the first time, for
everything would irresistibly remind her of him whom she could not
think of now without a pang. But as the ordeal must come, why, the
sooner it was over the better. So a few moments later her hand was on
her father's arm, and they were on their way to the Art Building as
in happier days.

Mr. Ludolph went to his office, and Christine, looking neither to the
right nor to the left, ascended to the upper show-room, and at once
sought to engage every faculty in making the sketch her father had
suggested. Since Dennis was not, as she believed, either on the earth
or elsewhere, she tried to take up life again as it had been before
he came, and to act as if he had never been.

Hopeless task! In that familiar place, where they had begun the
rearrangement of the store, everything spoke of him. She saw his glowing
cheeks; again his dark, eager eyes followed her every movement and
interpreted her wishes even before she could speak. Some of the pictures
on the walls his hands had handled, and in her strong fancy his lithe
form seemed moving the ladder to take them down again, while she, with
heart and mind at rest, looked with growing curiosity and interest on
her humble helper.

What changes had occurred within a short half-year! She shuddered at
the thought that one who was then so instinct with life and happiness
could now be dust and nothingness, and she the cause.

Association and conscience were again too powerful. She was becoming
nervous and full of a strange unrest, so she concluded to finish her
sketch at another time. As she was gathering up her materials she heard
some one enter the room.

She was in such a morbid, unstrung state that the least thing startled
her. But imagine if you can her wonder and terror as she saw Dennis
Fleet--the dead and buried, as she fully believed--enter, carrying a
picture as of old, and looking as of old, save that he was paler and
thinner. Was it an apparition? or, as she had read, had she dwelt so
long on this trouble that her mind and imagination were becoming
disordered and able to place their wild creations before her as
realities?

Her sketching materials fell clattering to the floor, and after one
sharp exclamation of alarm she stood as if transfixed, with parted
lips and dilated eyes, panting like a frightened bird.

If a sculptor had wished to portray the form and attitude of one
startled by the supernatural, never could he have found a more fitting
model than Christine at this moment.

As she had been seated a little on one side Dennis had not seen her
at first; but, on recognizing her so unexpectedly, he was scarcely
less startled than she, and the valuable picture he was carrying nearly
met sudden destruction. But he had no such reason as Christine for the
continuance of his surprise, and, at once recovering himself, he set
the picture against the wall.

This made the illusion still more strange and terrible to Christine.
There was the dead before her, doing just as she had been
imagining--just what he had done at her bidding months before.

Dennis was greatly puzzled by her look of alarm and distress. Then he
thought that perhaps she feared he would break out in bitter and angry
invectives again, and he advanced toward her to assure her of the
contrary.

Slowly and instinctively she retreated and put up her hands with a
deprecatory gesture.

"She cannot endure the sight of me," thought he, but at once he said,
with dignified courtesy: "Miss Ludolph, you have nothing to fear from
me, that you should regard me in that manner. You need not shrink as
if from contagion. We can treat each other as courteous strangers, at
least."

"I--I--I--thought you were dead!" she gasped, in a loud whisper.

Dennis's cheek grew paler than it had been in all his sickness, and
then as suddenly became dark with anger. His eyes were terrible in
their indignation as he advanced a few paces almost fiercely. She
trembled violently and shrunk further away.

"You thought I was dead?" he asked, sternly.

"Ye-e-s," in the same unnatural whisper.

"What!" he exclaimed, in short and bitter emphasis, "do you mean to
say that you never cared even to ask whether I lived or died in my
long, weary illness?--that you were so supremely indifferent to my
fate that you could not articulate one sentence of inquiry? Surely
this is the very sublimity of heartlessness; this is to be callous
beyond one's power of imagination. It seems to me that I would feel
as much interest as that in any human being I had once known. If even
a dog had licked my hand in good-will, and afterward I had seen it,
wounded or sick, creep off into covert, the next time I passed that
way I would step aside to see whether the poor creature had lived or
died. But after all the wealth of affection that I lavished upon you,
after toiling and almost dying in my vain effort to touch your marble
heart, you have not even the humanity to ask if I am above ground!"

The illusion had now passed from Christine's mind, and with it her
alarm. The true state of the case was rapidly dawning upon her, and
she was about to speak eagerly; but in his strong indignation he
continued, impetuously: "You thought I was dead! The wish probably was
father to the thought. My presumption deserved no better fate. But
permit me to tell you, though all unbidden, I did not die. With God's
blessing I expect to live to a good old age, and intend that but few
years shall pass before my name is as well known and honored as the
ancient one of Ludolph;" and he turned on his heel and strode from the
room.



CHAPTER XXXVII

IF HE KNEW!


For a little time after Dennis's angry tread died away, Christine sat
almost paralyzed by surprise and deeper emotion. Her mind, though
usually clear and rapid in its action, was too confused to realize the
truth. Suddenly she sprang up, gathered together her sketching
materials, and drawing a thick veil over her face sped through the
store, through the streets, to the refuge of her own room. She must
be alone.

Hastily throwing aside her wrappings, she began to walk up and down
in her excitement. Her listlessness was gone now in very truth, and
her eye and cheek glowed as never before. As if it had become the great
vivifying principle of her own life, she kept repeating continually
in a low, ecstatic tone, "He lives! he lives! he is not dead; his blood
is not upon my conscience!"

At last she sat down in her luxurious chair before the window to think
it all over--to commune with herself--often the habit of the reserved
and solitary. From the disjointed sentences she let fall, from the
reflection of her excited face in yonder glass, we gather quite
correctly the workings of her mind. Her first words were, "Thank heaven!
thank something or other, I have not blotted out that true, strong
genius."

Again--"What untold wretchedness I might have saved myself if I had
only asked the question, in a casual way, 'How is Mr. Fleet?' Christine
Ludolph, with all your pride and imagined superiority, you can be very
foolish.

"How he hates and despises me now! little wonder!"

"But if he knew!"

"Knew what? Why could you not ask after him, as after any other sick
man? You have had a score or so of offers, and did not trouble yourself
as to the fate of the lovelorn swains. Seems to me your conscience has
been very tender in this case. And the fact that he misjudges you,
thinks you callous, heartless, and is angry, troubles you beyond
measure."

"When before were you so sensitive to the opinion of clerks and
trades-people, or even the proudest suitors for your hand? But in this
case you must cry out, in a tone of sentimental agony, 'Oh, if he only
knew it!"

"Knew what?"

Her face in yonder mirror has a strange, introverted expression, as
if she were scanning her own soul. Her brow contracts with thought and
perplexity.

Gradually a warm, beautiful light steals into her face, transforming
it as from the scowl of a winter morning into a dawn of June; her eyes
become gentle and tender. A rich color comes out upon her cheeks,
spreads up her temples, mantles her brow, and pours a crimson torrent
down her snowy neck. Suddenly she drops her burning face into her
hands, and hides a vision one would gladly look longer upon. But see,
even her little ears have become as red as coral.

The bleakest landscape in the world brightens into something like
beauty when the sun shines upon it. So love, the richer, sweeter light
of the soul, make the plainest face almost beautiful; but when it
changed Christine Ludolph's faultless, yet too cold and classical,
features into those of a loving woman's, it suggested a beauty scarcely
human.

A moment later there came a faint whisper: "I fear--I almost fear I
love him." Then she lifted a startled, frightened face and looked
timidly around as if, in truth, walls had ears.

Reassured by the consciousness of solitude, her head dropped on her
wrist and her revery went forward. Her eyes became dreamy, and a
half-smile played upon her lips as she recalled proof after proof of
his affection, for she knew the cruel words of the last interview were
the result of misunderstanding.

But suddenly she darted from her seat and began pacing the room in the
strongest perturbation.

"Mocked again!" she cried; "the same cruel fate! my old miserable
experience in a new aspect! With everything within my reach, save the
one thing I want, I possess the means of all kinds of happiness except
that which makes me happy. In every possible way I am pledged to a
career and future in which he can take no part. Though my heart is
full of the strangest, sweetest chaos, and I do not truly understand
myself, yet I am satisfied that this is not a school-girl's fancy. But
my father would regard it as the old farce repeated. Already he suspects
and frowns upon the matter. I should have to break with him utterly
and forever. I should have to give up all my ambitious plans and
towering hopes of life abroad. A plain Mrs. in this city of shops is
a poor substitute for a countess's coronet and a villa on the Rhine."

Her cheek flushed, and her lip curled.

"That indeed would be the very extravagance of romance, and how could
I, least of all, who so long have scoffed at such things, explain my
action? These mushroom shopkeepers, who were all nobodies the other
day, elevate their eyebrows when a merchant's daughter marries her
father's clerk. But when would the wonder cease if a German lady of
rank followed suit?

"Then again my word, my honor, every sacred pledge I could give, forbids
such folly.

"Would to heaven I had never seen him, for this unfortunate fancy of
mine must be crushed in its inception; strangled before it comes to
master me as it has mastered him."

After a long and weary sigh she continued: "Well, everything is
favorable for a complete and final break between us. He believes me
heartless and wicked to the last degree. I cannot undeceive him without
showing more than he should know. I have only to avoid him, to say
nothing, and we drift apart.

"If we could only have been friends he might have helped me so much!
but that now is clearly impossible--yes, for both of us.

"Truly one of these American poets was right:

"'For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these--It
might have been.'

"But thanks to the immortal gods, as the pious heathen used to say,
his blood is not on my hands, and this has taken a mountain off my
heart. Thus relieved I can perhaps forget all the miserable business.
Fate forbids that I, as it has forbidden that many another high-born
woman, should marry where she might have loved."

If Christine's heart was wronged, her pride was highly gratified by
this conclusion. Here was a new and strong resemblance between herself
and the great. In mind she recalled the titled unfortunates who had
"loved where they could not marry," and with the air and feeling of
a martyr to ancestral grandeur she pensively added her name to the
list.

With her conscience freed from its burden of remorse, with the
knowledge, so sweet to every woman, that she might accept this happiness
if she would, in spite of her airs of martyrdom, the world had changed
greatly for the better, and with the natural buoyancy of youth she
reacted into quite a cheerful and hopeful state.

Her father noticed this on his return to dinner in the evening, and
sought to learn its cause. He asked, "How did you make out with your
sketch?"

"I made a beginning," she answered, with some little color rising to
her cheek.

"Perhaps you were interrupted?"

"Why did you not tell me that Mr. Fleet had recovered?" she asked,
abruptly.

"Why, did you think he was dead?"

"Yes."

Mr. Ludolph indulged in a hearty laugh (he knew the power of ridicule).

"Well, that is excellent!" he said. "You thought the callow youth had
died on account of your hardness of heart; and this explains your
rather peculiar moods and tenses of late. Let me assure you that a
Yankee never dies from such a cause."

Mr. Ludolph determined if possible to break down her reserve and let
in the garish light, which he knew to be most fatal to all romantic
fancies, that ever thrive best in the twilight of secrecy. But she was
on the alert now, and in relief of mind had regained her poise and the
power to mask her feeling. So she said in a tone tinged with cold
indifference, "You may be right, but I had good reason to believe to
the contrary, and, as I am not altogether without a conscience, you
might have saved much pain by merely mentioning the fact of his
recovery."

"But you had adjured me with frightful solemnity never to mention his
name again," said her father, still laughing.

Christine colored and bit her lip. She had forgotten for the moment
this awkward fact.

"I was nervous, sick, and not myself that day, and every one I met
could speak of nothing but Mr. Fleet."

"Well, really," he said, "in the long list of the victims that you
have wounded if not slain, I never supposed my clerk and quondam
man-of-all-work would prove so serious a case."

"A truce to your bantering, father! Mr. Fleet is humble only in station,
not in character, not in ability. You know I have never been very
tender with the 'victims,' as you designate them, of the Mellen stamp;
but Mr. Fleet is a man, in the best sense of the word, and one that
I have wronged. Now that the folly is past I may as well explain to
you some things that have appeared strange. I think I can truly say
that I have given those gentlemen who have honored, or rather annoyed
me, by their unwished-for regard, very little encouragement. Therefore,
I was not responsible for any follies they might commit. But for
artistic reasons I did encourage Mr. Fleet's infatuation. You remember
how I failed in making a copy of that picture. In my determination to
succeed, I hit upon the rather novel expedient of inspiring and copying
the genuine thing. You know my imitative power is better than my
imagination, and I thought that by often witnessing the expression of
feeling and passion, I might learn to portray it without the
disagreeable necessity of passing through any such experiences myself.
But the experiment, as you know, did not work well. These living
subjects are hard to manage, and, as I have said, I am troubled by a
conscience."

Mr. Ludolph's eyes sparkled, and a look of genuine admiration lighted
up his features.

"Brava!" he cried; "your plan was worthy of you and of your ancestry.
It was a real stroke of genius. You were too tender-hearted, otherwise
it would have been perfect. What are the lives of a dozen such young
fellows compared with the development and perfection of such a woman
as you bid fair to be?"

Christine had displayed in this transaction just the qualities that
her father most admired. But even she was shocked at his callousness,
and lifted a somewhat startled face to his.

"Your estimate of human life is rather low," she said.

"Not at all. Is not one perfect plant better than a dozen imperfect
ones? The gardener often pulls up the crowding and inferior ones to
throw them about the roots of the strongest, that in their death and
decay they may nourish it to the highest development. The application
of this principle is evident. They secure most in this world who have
the skill and power to grasp most."

"But how about the rights of others? Conscious men and women are not
plants."

"Let them be on their guard then. Every one is for himself in this
world. That can be plainly seen through the thin disguises that some
try to assume. After all, half the people we meet are little better
than summer weeds."

Christine almost shuddered to think that the one bound to her by closest
ties cherished such sentiments toward the world, and probably, to a
certain extent, toward herself, but she only said, quietly: "I can
hardly subscribe to your philosophy as yet, though I fear I act upon
it too often. Still it does not apply to Mr. Fleet. He is gifted in
no ordinary degree, and doubtless will stand high here in his own land
in time. And now, as explanation has been made, with your permission
we will drop this subject out of our conversation as before."

"Well," said Mr. Ludolph to himself, between sips of his favorite Rhine
wine, "I have gained much light on the subject to-night, and I must
confess that, even with my rather wide experience, the whole thing is
a decided novelty. If Christine were only less troubled with conscience,
over-fastidiousness, or whatever it is--if she were more moderate in
her ambition as an artist, and could be satisfied with power and
admiration, as other women are--what a star she might become in the
fashionable world of Europe! But, for some reason, I never feel sure
of her. Her spirit is so wilful and obstinate, and she seems so full
of vague longing after an ideal, impossible world, that I live in
constant dread that she may be led into some folly fatal to my ambition.
This Fleet is a most dangerous fellow. I wish I were well rid of him;
still, matters are not so bad as I feared--that is, if she told me the
whole truth, which I am inclined to doubt. But I had better keep him
in my employ during the few months we still remain in this land, as
I can watch over him, and guard against his influence better than if
he were beyond my control. But no more promotion or encouragement does
he get from me."

Janette, Christine's French maid, passed the open door. The thought
struck Mr. Ludolph that he might secure an ally in her.

The unscrupulous creature was summoned, and agreed for no very large
sum to become a spy upon Christine, and report anything looking toward
friendly relations with Dennis Fleet.

"The game is still in my hands," said the wary man. "I will yet steer
my richly-freighted argosy up the Rhine. Here's to Christine, the belle
of the German court!" and he filled a slender Venetian glass to the
brim, drained it, and then retired.

Christine, on reaching her room, muttered to herself: "He now knows
all that I mean he ever shall. We are one in our ambition, if nothing
else, and therefore our relations must be to a certain degree
confidential and amicable. And now forget you have a conscience, forget
you have a heart, and, above all things, forget that you have ever
seen or known Dennis Fleet."

Thus the influence of a false education, a proud, selfish, ambitious
life, decided her choice. She plunged as resolutely into the whirl of
fashionable gayety about her as she had in the dissipations of New
York, determined to forget the past, and kill the time that must
intervene before she could sail away to her brilliant future in Germany.

But she gradually learned that, if conscience had robbed her of peace
before, something else disturbed her now, and rendered her efforts
futile. She found that there was a principle at work in her heart
stronger even than her resolute will. In spite of her purpose to the
contrary, she caught herself continually thinking of Dennis, and
indulging in strange, delicious reveries in regard to him.

At last she ceased to shun the store as she had done at first, but with
increasing frequency found some necessity for going there.

After the interview in the show-room, Dennis was driven to the bitter
conclusion that Christine was utterly heartless, and cared not a jot
for him. His impression was confirmed by the fact that she shunned the
store, and that he soon heard of her as a belle and leader in the
ultra-fashionable world. He, too, bitterly lamented that he had ever
seen her, and was struggling with all the power of his will to forget
her. He fiercely resolved that, since she wished him dead, she should
become dead to him.

Almost immediately after his return he had discovered that the two
emblematical pictures had been removed from the loft over the store.
He remembered that he had spoken of them to Christine, and from Ernst
he gathered that she herself had taken them away. It was possible, he
believed, that she had made them the subject of ridicule. At best she
must have destroyed them in order to blot out all trace of a
disagreeable episode. Whatever may have been their fate, they had, as
he thought, failed in their purpose, and were worthless to him, and
he was far too proud to make inquiries.

As the weeks passed on, he apparently succeeded better than she. There
was nothing in her character, as she then appeared, that appealed to
anything gentle or generous. She seemed so proud, so strong and resolute
in her choice of evil, so devoid of the true womanly nature, as he had
learned to reverence it in his mother, that he could not pity, much
less respect her, and even his love could scarcely survive under such
circumstances.

When she began coming to the store again, though his heart beat thick
and fast at her presence, he turned his back and seemed not to see
her, or made some errand to a remote part of the building. At first
she thought this might be accident, but she soon found it a resolute
purpose to ignore her very existence. By reason of a trait peculiar
to Christine, this was only the more stimulating. She craved all the
more that which was seemingly denied.

Accustomed to every gratification, to see all yield to her wishes, and
especially to find gentlemen almost powerless to resist her beauty,
she came to regard this one stern, averted face as infinitely more
attractive than all the rest in the world.

"That he so steadily avoids me proves that he is anything but
indifferent," she said to herself one day.

She condemned her visits to the store, and often reproached herself
with folly in going; but a secret powerful magnetism drew her thither
in spite of herself.

Dennis, too, soon noticed that she came often, and the fact awakened
a faint hope within him. He learned that his love was not dead, but
only chilled and chained by circumstances and his own strong will.
True, apart from the fact of her coming, she gave him no encouragement.
She was as distant and seemingly oblivious of his existence as he of
hers, but love can gather hope from a marvellously little thing.

But one day Christine detected her father watching her movements with
the keenest scrutiny, and after that she came more and more rarely.
The hope that for a moment had tinged the darkness surrounding Dennis
died away like the meteor's transient light.

He went into society very little after his illness, and shunned large
companies. He preferred to spend his evenings with his mother and in
study. The Winthrops were gone, having removed to their old home in
Boston, and he had not formed very intimate acquaintances elsewhere.
Moreover, his limited circle, though of the best and most refined, was
not one in which Christine often appeared.

But one evening his cheek paled and his heart fluttered as he saw her
entering the parlors of a lady by whom he had been invited to meet a
few friends. For some little time he studiously avoided her, but at
last his hostess, with well-meant zeal, formally presented him.

They bowed very politely and very coldly. The lady surmised that
Christine did not care about the acquaintance of her father's clerk,
and so brought them no more together. But Christine was pained by
Dennis's icy manner, and saw that she was thoroughly misunderstood.
When asked to sing, she chose a rather significant ditty:

    "Ripple, sparkle, rapid stream,
     Let your dancing wavelets gleam
     Quiveringly and bright;
     Children think the surface glow
     Reaches to the depth below,
     Hidden from the light.

    "Human faces often seem
     Like the sparkle of the stream,
     In the social glare;
     Some assert, in wisdom's guise,
     (Look they not with children's eyes?)
     All is surface there."

As she rose from the piano her glance met his with something like
meaning in it, he imagined. He started, flushed, and his face became
full of eager questioning. But her father was on the watch also, and,
placing his daughter's hand within his arm, he led her into the front
parlor, and soon after they pleaded another engagement and vanished
altogether.

No chance for explanation came, and soon a new and all-absorbing anxiety
filled Dennis's heart, and the shadow of the greatest sorrow that he
had yet experienced daily drew nearer.



CHAPTER XXXVIII

THE GATES OPEN


At Dennis's request, Dr. Arten called and carefully inquired into Mrs.
Fleet's symptoms. Her son stood anxiously by awaiting the result of
the examination. At last the physician said, cheerily: "There is no
immediate occasion for alarm here. I am sorry to say that your mother's
lungs are far from strong, but they may carry her through many
comfortable years yet. I will prescribe tonics, and you may hope for
the best. But mark this well, she must avoid exposure. A severe cold
might be most serious in its consequences."

How easy to say, "Do not take cold!" How many whose lives were at stake
have sought to obey the warning, but all in vain! Under Dr. Arten's
tonics, Mrs. Fleet grew stronger, and Dennis rejoiced over the
improvement. But, in one of the sudden changes attendant on the breaking
up of winter, the dreaded cold was taken, and it soon developed into
acute pneumonia.

For a few days she was very ill, and Dennis never left her side. In
the intervals of pain and fever she would smile at him and whisper:
"The harbor is near. This rough weather cannot last much longer."

"Mother, do not leave us; we cannot spare you," ever pleaded her son.

Contrary to her expectations, however, she rallied, but continued in
a very feeble state. Dennis was able to resume his duties in the store,
and he hoped and tried to believe that the warm spring and summer days
soon to come would renew his mother's strength. But every day she grew
feebler, and Dr. Arten shook his head.

The Bruders were very kind, and it was astonishing how much Mrs. Bruder,
though burdened with her large family, found time to do. If Mrs. Fleet
had been her own mother she could not have bestowed upon her more
loving solicitude. Mr. Bruder was devotion itself. He removed his easel
to an attic-room in Mrs. Fleet's house; and every hour of Dennis's
absence heard him say: "Vat I do for you now? I feel no goot unless
I do someding."

Some little time after Mrs. Fleet was taken sick a mystery arose. The
most exquisite flowers and fruits were left at the house from time to
time, marked in a bold, manly hand, "For Mrs. Fleet." But all efforts
to discover their source failed.

The reader will guess that Christine was the donor, and Dennis hoped
it--though, he admitted to himself, with little reason.

Mrs. Fleet had not much pain. She seemed gently wafted as by an ebbing
tide away from time and earth, Kindly but firmly she sought to prepare
Dennis's mind for the change soon to take place. At first he could not
endure its mention, but she said, earnestly: "My son, I am not dying.
I am just entering on the true, real, eternal life--a life which is
as much beyond this poor feeble existence as the sun is brighter than
a glow-worm. I shall soon clasp my dear husband to my heart again,
and, oh, ecstasy! I shall soon in reality see the Saviour whom I now
see almost continually in vision."

Then again she would turn toward her earthly treasures with unutterable
yearning and tenderness.

"Oh, that I could gather you up in my arms and take you all with me!"
she would often exclaim. Many times during the day she would call the
little girls from their play and kiss their wondering faces.

One evening Dennis came home and found a vase of flowers with a green
background of mint at his mother's bedside. Their delicate fragrance
greeted him as soon as he entered. As he sat by her side holding her
hand, he said, softly: "Mother, are not these sprays of mint rather
unusual in a bouquet? Has the plant any special meaning? I have noticed
it before mingled with these mysterious flowers."

She smiled and answered, "When I was a girl its language was, 'Let us
be friends again.'"

"Do you think--can it be possible that _she_ sends them?" said he, in a
low, hesitating tone.

"Prayer is mighty, my son."

"And have you been praying for her all this time, mother?"

"Yes, and will continue to do so to the last."

"Oh, mother! I have lost hope. My heart has been full of bitterness
toward her, and I have felt that God was against it all."

"God is not against her learning to know Him, which is life. Jesus has
loved her all the time, and she has wronged Him more than she has you."

Dennis bowed his head on his mother's hand, and she felt hot tears
fall upon it. At last he murmured: "You are indeed going to heaven
soon, dear mother, for your language is not of earth. When will such
a spirit dwell within me?"

"Again remember your mother's words," she answered, gently; "prayer
is mighty."

"Mother," said he, with a sudden earnestness, "do you think you can
pray for us in heaven?"

"I know of no reason to the contrary."

"Then I know you will, and the belief will ever be a source of hope
and strength."

Mrs. Fleet was now passing through the land of Beulah. To her strong
spiritual vision, the glories of the other shore seemed present, and
at times she thought that she really heard music; again it would seem
as if her Saviour had entered the plain little room, as He did the
humble home at Bethany.

Her thoughts ran much on Christine. One day she wrote, feebly:

"Would Miss Ludolph be willing to come and see a dying woman?
                                  ETHEL FLEET."

Mr. Bruder carried it, but most unfortunately Christine was out, so
that her maid, ever on the alert to earn the price of her treachery,
received it. It was slightly sealed. She opened it, and saw from its
contents that it must be given to Mr. Ludolph. He with a frown committed
it to the flames.

"I have written to her," she whispered to her son in the evening, "and
think she will come to see me."

Dennis was sleepless that night, through his hope and eager expectation.
The following day, and the next passed, and she came not.

"I was right," exclaimed he, bitterly. "She is utterly heartless. It
was not she who sent the flowers. Who that is human would have refused
such a request! Waste no more thought upon her, for she is unworthy,
and it is all in vain." "No!" said Mrs. Fleet in sudden energy. "It
is not in vain. Have I not prayed again and again? and shall I doubt
God?"

"Your faith is stronger than mine," he answered, in deep despondency.

"God's time is not always ours," she answered, gently.

But an angry fire lurked in Dennis's eyes, and he muttered to himself
as he went to his room: "She has snapped the last slender cord that
bound me to her. I could endure almost anything myself, but that she
should refuse to visit my dying mother proves her a monster, with all
her beauty."

As he was leaving the house in the morning, his mother whispered,
gently, "Who was it that said, 'Father, forgive them, they know not what
they do?'"

"Ah, but she does know," said he, bitterly. "I can forgive nearly
everything against myself, but not slights to you."

"The time will come when you will forgive everything, my son."

"Not till there is acknowledgment and sorrow for the wrong," answered
he, sternly. Then with a sudden burst of tenderness he added: "Good-by,
darling mother. I will try to do anything you wish, even though it is
impossible;" but his love, through Janette's treachery, suffered the
deepest wound it had yet received.

Christine of her own accord had almost decided to call upon Mrs. Fleet,
but before she could carry out her purpose while hastily coming
downstairs one day, she sprained her ankle, and was confined to her
room some little time.

She sent Janette with orders for the flowers, who, at once surmising
their destination, said to the florist that she was Miss Ludolph's
confidential maid, and would carry them to those for whom they were
designed. He, thinking it "all right," gave them to her, and she took
them to a Frenchman in the same trade whom she knew, and sold them at
half-price, giving him a significant sign to ask no questions. To the
same market she brought the fruit; so from that time they ceased as
mysteriously as they had appeared at Mrs. Fleet's bedside.

But Dennis was so anxious, and his mother was now failing so rapidly,
that he scarcely noted this fact. The warm spring days seemed rather
to enervate than to strengthen her. He longed to stay with her
constantly, but his daily labor was necessary to secure the comforts
needful to an invalid. Every morning he bade her a most tender adieu,
and during the day often sent Ernst to inquire how she was.

One evening Christine ventured to send Janette on the same errand and
impatiently awaited her return. At last she came, appearing as if
flushed and angry.

"Whom did you see?" asked Christine, eagerly.

"I saw Mr. Fleet himself."

"Well, what did he say?"

"He bite his lip, frown, and say, 'Zere is no answer,' and turn on his
heel into ze house."

It was now Christine's turn to be angry. "What!" she exclaimed, "does
his Bible teach him to forget and forgive nothing? Can it be that he,
like the rest of them, believes and acts on only such parts as are to
his mood?"

"I don't know nothing about him," said the maid, "only I don't want
to go zere again."

"You need not," was the brief reply.

After a long, bitter revery, she sighed: "Ah, well, thus we drift
apart. But it is just as well, for apart we must ever be."

One morning early in May Mrs. Fleet was very weak, and Dennis left her
with painful misgivings. During the morning he sent Ernst to see how
she was, and he soon returned, with wild face, crying, "Come home
quick!"

Breaking abruptly from his startled customer, Dennis soon reached his
mother's side. Mr. and Mrs. Bruder were sobbing at the foot of the
bed, and the girls were pleading piteously on either side--"Oh, mother!
please don't go away!"

"Hush!" said Dennis, solemnly. Awed by his manner, all became
comparatively silent. He bent over the bed, and said, "Mother, you are
leaving us."

The voice of her beloved son rallied the dying woman's wandering mind.
After a moment she recognized him, smiled faintly, and whispered: "Yes,
I think I am--kiss me--good-by. Bring--the children. Jesus--take
care--my little--lambs. Good-by--true--honest friends--meet me--heaven.
Dennis--these children--your charge--bring them home--to me. Pray for
_her_. I don't know--why--she seems very--near to me. Farewell--my
good--true--son--mother's blessing--God's blessing--ever rest--on you."

Her eyes closed, and she fell into a gentle sleep.

"She vake no more in dis vorld," said Mrs. Bruder, in an awed tone.

Mr. Bruder, unable to control his feelings any longer, hurried from
the room. His wife, with streaming eyes, silently dressed the little
girls, and took them home with her, crying piteously all the way for
mamma.

Pale, tearless, motionless, Dennis sat, hour after hour holding his
mother's hand. He noted that her pulse grew more and more feeble. At
last the sun in setting broke through the clouds that had obscured it
all day, and filled the room with a sudden glory.

To Dennis's great surprise, his mother's eyes opened wide, with the
strange, far-off look they ever had when she was picturing to herself
the unknown world.

Her lips moved. He bent over her and caught the words: "Hark! hear!--It
never was so sweet before. See the angels--thronging toward me--they
never came so near before."

Then a smile of joy and welcome lighted up her wan features, and she
whispered, "Oh, Dennis, husband--are we once more united?"

Suddenly there was a look of ecstasy such as her son had never seen
on any human face, and she cried almost aloud, "Jesus--my Saviour!"
and received, as it were, directly into His arms, she passed from
earth.

We touch briefly on the scenes that followed. Dennis took the body of
his mother to her old home, and buried it under the wide-spreading elm
in the village churchyard, where as a happy child and blooming maiden
she had often sat between the services. It was his purpose to remove
the remains of his father and place them by her side as soon as he
could afford it.

His little sisters accompanied him east, and he found a home for them
with a sister of his mother, who was a good, kind, Christian lady.
Dennis's salary was not large, but sufficient to insure that his sisters
would be no burden to his aunt, who was in rather straitened
circumstances. He also arranged that the small annuity should be paid
for their benefit.

It was hard parting from his sisters, whose little hearts seemed
breaking at what appeared to them to be a new bereavement.

"How can I leave them!" he exclaimed, with tears falling fast from his
eyes.

"They are children," said his aunt, soothingly, "and will forget their
troubles in a few days."

And so it proved; but Dennis, with a sore heart, and feeling very
lonely, returned to Chicago.

When at last Christine got out again, she learned from Ernst at the
store that Dennis's mother had died, and that he had taken the remains
and his sisters east. In his sorrow he seemed doubly interesting to
her.

"How I wish it were in my power to cheer and comfort him!" she sighed,
"and yet I fear my ability to do this is less than that of any one
else. In very truth he seems to despise and hate me now. The barriers
between us grow stronger and higher every day. How different it all
might have been if--. But what is the use of these wretched 'ifs'?
What is the use of resisting this blind, remorseless fate that brings
happiness to one and crushes another?"

Wearily and despondingly she rode back to the elegant home in which
she found so little enjoyment.

Whom should she met there but Mrs. Von Brakhiem from New York, bound
westward with a gay party on a trip to the Rocky Mountains and
California? They had stopped to spend a few days in Chicago, and were
determined to take Christine on with them. Her father strongly seconded
the plan. Though Christine surmised his motive, she did not care to
resist. Since she would soon be separated from Dennis forever, the
less she saw of him the less would be the pain. Moreover, her sore and
heavy heart welcomed any change that would cause forgetfulness; and
so it was speedily arranged.

Mrs. Von Brakhiem and her party quite took possession of the Ludolph
mansion, and often made it echo with gayety.

On the evening of the day that Dennis buried his mother, Ernst went over
at Mr. Ludolph's request to carry a message. He found the house
the scene of a fashionable revel. There were music and dancing in the
parlors, and from the dining-room the clink of glasses and loud peals
of laughter proved that this was not Christine's ideal of an
entertainment as she had portrayed it to her father on a former
occasion. In truth, she had little to do with the affair; it was quite
impromptu, and Mr. Ludolph and Mrs. Von Brakhiem were responsible for
it.

But Ernst could not know this, and to him it seemed shocking. The
simple funeral service taking place on that day in the distant New
England village had never been absent from his thoughts a moment. Since
early morning he had gone about with his little face composed to
funereal gravity.

His simple, warm-hearted parents felt that they could only show proper
respect for the occasion by the deepest gloom. Their rooms were arranged
in stiff and formal manner, with crape here and there. All unnecessary
work ceased, and the children, forbidden to play, were dressed in
mourning as far as possible, and made to sit in solemn and dreadful
state all day. It would not have surprised Ernst if the whole city had
gone into mourning. Therefore the revelry at the Ludolph mansion seemed
to him heartless and awful beyond measure, and nearly the first things
he told Dennis on the latter's return was that they had had "a great
dancing and drinking party, the night of the funeral, at Mr. Ludolph's."
Then, trying to find some explanation for what seemed to him such a
strange and wicked thing, he suggested, "Perhaps they meant it for a
wake."

Poor little Ernst's ideas of the world, outside of his home, had been
gathered from a very low neighborhood.

He also handed Dennis a letter that Mr. Ludolph requested should be
given him on his return. It read as follows:

                              "CHICAGO, May 6, 1871.

"I have been compelled to supply your place in your absence: therefore
your services will be no longer needed at this store. Inclosed you
will find a check for the small balance still due you,
                                AUGUST LUDOLPH."

Dennis's brow grew very dark, and in bitter soliloquy he said, half
aloud, as he strode up and down his little room in great agitation:
"And so it all ends! The girl at whose side my mother would have watched
in the most dangerous and loathsome of diseases; the woman of ice whom
I sought to melt and render human by as warm, true love as ever man
lavished on one who rewarded his affection--this beautiful monster
will not even visit my mother when dying; she holds a revel on the day
of the funeral; and now, through her influence no doubt, I am robbed
of the chance of winning honest bread. She cannot even endure the sight
of the man who once told her the unvarnished truth. Poor as you deem
me, Christine Ludolph, with God's help not many years shall pass before
it will be condescension on my part to recognize you."

He would not even go to the store again. The Bruders, having heard
what had occurred, took Ernst away also; but Dennis soon found him a
better situation elsewhere.

The day on which Dennis returned, Christine was speeding in a palace-car
toward the Rocky Mountains, outwardly gay, determined to enjoy herself
and carry out her reckless purpose to get the most possible out of
life, cost what it might.

If she had been a shallow girl, thoughtless and vain, with only mind
enough to take in the events of the passing moment, she might have
bought many fleeting pleasures with her abundant wealth. But this she
was not, with all her faults, and wherever she went, in the midst of
gayest scenes, and in the presence of the grandest and most inspiring
scenery, thought and memory, like two spectres that no spell could lay,
haunted her and robbed her of peace and any approach to happiness.
Though possessing the means of gratifying every whim, though restrained
by no scruples from doing what she chose, she felt that all around
were getting more from life than she.

During her absence she experienced a sudden and severe attack of
illness. Her friends were much alarmed about her, and she far more
about herself. All her old terror returned. In one respect she was
like her mother; she had no physical courage, but shrank with
inexpressible dread from danger, pain, and death. Again the blackness
of darkness gathered round her, and not one in the gay pleasure party
could say a word to comfort her.

She recovered, and soon regained her usual health, but her
self-confidence was more thoroughly shaken. She felt like one in a
little cockle-shell boat out upon a shoreless ocean. While the
treacherous sea remained calm, all might be well, but she knew that
a storm would soon arise, and that she must go down, beyond remedy.
Again she had been taught how suddenly, how unexpectedly, that storm
might rise.

Dennis resolved at once to enter on the career of an artist. He sold
to Mr. French, at a moderate price, some paintings and sketches he had
made. He rented a small room that became his studio,
sleeping-apartment--in brief, his home, and then went to work with all
the ordinary incentives to success intensified by his purpose to reach
a social height that would compel Christine to look upward if their
acquaintance were renewed.

Disappointment in love is one of the severest tests of character in
man or woman. Some sink into weak sentimentality, and mope and languish;
some become listless, apathetic, and float down the current of existence
like driftwood. Men are often harsh and cynical, and rail at the sex
to which their mothers and sisters belong. Sometimes a man inflicts
a wellnigh fatal wound and leaves his victim to cure it as best she
may. From that time forth she may be like the wronged Indian, who slays
as many white men as he can. Not a few, on finding they cannot enter
the beautiful paradise of happy love, plunge into imbruting vice, and
drown not only their disappointment but themselves in dissipation.
Their course is like that of some who deem that the best way to cure
a wound or end a disease is to kill the patient as soon as possible.
If women have true metal in them (and they usually have) they become
unselfishly devoted to others, and by gentle, self-denying ways seek
to impart to those about them the happiness denied to themselves.

But with all manly young men the instinct of Dennis is perhaps the
most common. They will rise, shine, and dazzle the eyes that once
looked scornfully or indifferently at them.

As he worked patiently at his noble calling this smaller ambition was
gradually lost in the nobler, broader one, to be a true artist and a
good man.

During his illness some gentlemen of large wealth and liberality, who
wished to stimulate and develop the native artistic talent of their
city, offered a prize of two thousand dollars for the finest picture
painted during the year, the artist also having the privilege of selling
his work.

On his return after his illness Dennis heard of this, and determined
to be one of the competitors. He applied to Mr. Cornell, who had the
matter in charge, for permission to enter the lists, which that
gentleman granted rather doubtfully. He had known Dennis only as a
critic, not as an artist. But having gained his point, Dennis went
earnestly to work on the emblematic painting he had resolved upon, and
with what success the following chapters will show.

His mother's sickness and death, of course, put a complete shop to his
artistic labors for a time, but when entering on his new career, he
gave himself wholly to this effort.

The time for exhibition and decision was fixed--Saturday morning October
7, 1871.



CHAPTER XXXIX

SUSIE WINTHROP APPEARS AGAIN


Our story passes rapidly over the scenes and events of the summer and
fall of '71. Another heavy blow fell upon Dennis in the loss of his
old friend and instructor, Mr. Bruder.

By prayer and effort, his own and others, he was saved morally and
spiritually, but he had been greatly shattered by past excess. He was
attacked by typhoid fever, and after a few days' illness died. Recovery
from this disease depends largely upon strength and purity of
constitution. But every one of the innumerable glasses of liquor that
poor Bruder had swallowed had helped to rob him of these, and so there
was no power to resist.

Under her husband's improved finances, Mrs. Bruder had removed to
comfortable lodgings in Harrison Street, and these she determined to
keep if possible, dreading for the sake of her children the influences
of a crowded tenement house. Dennis stood by her, a stanch and helpful
friend; Ernst was earning a good little sum weekly, and by her needle
and washtub the patient woman continued the hard battle of life with
fair prospects of success.

Dennis's studio was on the south side, at the top of a tall building
overlooking the lake. Even before the early summer sun rose above the
shining waves he was at his easel, and so accomplished what is a fair
day's work before many of his profession had left their beds. Though
he worked hard and long, he still worked judiciously. Bent upon
accomplishing what was almost impossible within the limited time
remaining, he determined that, with all his labor, Dr. Arten should
never charge him with suicidal tendencies again. Therefore he trained
himself mentally and morally for his struggle as the athlete trains
himself physically.

He believed in the truth, too little recognized among brain-workers,
that men can develop themselves into splendid mental conditions, wherein
they can accomplish almost double their ordinary amount of labor.

The year allotted to the competitors for the prize to be given in
October was all too short for such a work as he had attempted, and
through his own, his mother's, and Mr. Bruder's illness, he had lost
a third of the time, but in the careful and skilful manner indicated
he was trying to make it up. He had a long conversation with shrewd
old Dr. Arten, who began to take a decided interest in him. He also
read several books on hygiene. Thus he worked under the guidance of
reason, science, Christian principle, instead of mere impulse, as is
too often the case with genius.

In the absorption of his task he withdrew utterly from society, and,
with the exception of his mission class, Christian worship on the
Sabbath, and attendance on a little prayer-meeting in a neglected
quarter during the week, he permitted no other demands upon his time
and thoughts.

His pictures had sold for sufficient to provide for his sisters and
enable him to live, with close economy, till after the prize was given,
and then, if he did not gain it (of which he was not at all sure), his
painting would sell for enough to meet future needs.

And so we leave him for a time earnestly at work. He was like a ship
that had been driven hither and thither, tempest-tossed and in danger.
At last, under a clear sky and in smooth water, it finds its true
bearings, and steadily pursues its homeward voyage.

The Christine whom he had first learned to love in happy
unconsciousness, while they arranged the store together, became a
glorified, artistic ideal. The Christine whom he had learned to know
as false and heartless was now to him a strange, fascinating, unwomanly
creature, beautiful only as the Sirens were beautiful, that he might
wreck himself body and soul before her unpitying eyes. He sought to
banish all thought of her.

Christine returned about midsummer. She was compelled to note, as she
neared her native city, that of all the objects it contained Dennis
Fleet was uppermost in her thoughts. She longed to go to the store and
see him once more, even though it should be only at a distance, with
not even the shadow of recognition between them. She condemned it all
as folly, and worse than vain, but that made no difference to her
heart, which would have its way.

Almost trembling with excitement she entered the Art Building the next
day, and glanced around with a timidity that was in marked contrast
to her usual cold and critical regard. But, as the reader knows, Dennis
Fleet was not to be seen. From time to time she went again, but neither
he nor Ernst appeared. She feared that for some reason he had gone,
and determined to learn the truth. Throwing off the strange timidity
and restraint that ever embarrassed her where he was concerned, she
said to Mr. Schwartz one day: "I don't like the way that picture is
hung. Where is Mr. Fleet? I believe he has charge of that department."

"Why, bless you! Miss Ludolph," replied Mr. Schwartz, with a look of
surprise, "Mr. Ludolph discharged him over two months ago."

"Discharged him! what for?"

"For being away too much, I heard," said old Schwartz, with a shrug
indicating that that might be the reason and might not.

Christine came to the store but rarely thereafter, for it had lost its
chief element of interest. That evening she said to her father, "You
have discharged Mr. Fleet?"

"Yes," was the brief answer.

"May I ask the reason?"

"He was away too much."

"That is not the real reason," she said, turning suddenly upon him.
"Father, what is the use of treating me as a child? What is the use
of trying to lock things up and keep them from me? I intend to go to
Germany with you this fall, and that is sufficient."

With a courtly smile Mr. Ludolph replied, "And I have lived long enough,
my daughter, to know that what people _intend_, and what they _do_ are
two very different things."

She flushed angrily and said: "It was most unjust to discharge him as
you did. Do you not remember that he offered his mother's services as
nurse when I was dreading the smallpox?"

"You are astonishingly grateful in this case," said her father, with
a meaning that Christine understood too well; "but, if you will read
the records of the Ludolph race, you will find that its representatives
have often been compelled to do things somewhat arbitrarily. Since you
have been gone, I have received letters announcing the death of my
brother and his wife. I am now Baron Ludolph!"

But Christine was too angry and too deeply wounded to note this
information, which at one time would have elated her beyond measure.
She coldly said, "It is a pity that noblemen are compelled to aught
but noble deeds"; and, with this parting arrow, she left him.

Even her father winced, and then with a heavy frown said, "It is well
that this Yankee youth has vanished; still, the utmost vigilance is
required."

Again he saw the treacherous maid and promised increased reward if she
would be watchful, and inform him of every movement of Christine.

In the unobtrusive ways that her sensitive pride permitted, Christine
tried to find out what had become of Dennis, but vainly. She offered
her maid a large reward if she would discover him, but she had been
promised a larger sum not to find him, and so did not. The impression
was given that he had left the city, and Christine feared, with a
sickening dread, that she would never see him again. But one evening
Mr. Cornell stated a fact in a casual way that startled both Mr. and
Miss Ludolph.

He was calling at their house, and they were discussing the coming
exhibition of the pictures which would compete for the prize.

"By the way, your former clerk and porter is among the competitors;
at least he entered the lists last spring, but I have lost sight of
him since. I imagine he has given it up, and betaken himself to tasks
more within the range of his ability."

The eyes of father and daughter met, but she turned to Mr. Cornell,
and said, coolly, though with a face somewhat flushed, "And has Chicago
so much artistic talent that a real genius has no chance here?"

"I was not aware that Mr. Fleet was a genius," answered Mr. Cornell.

"I think that he will satisfy you on that point, and that you will
hear from him before the exhibition takes place."

Mr. Ludolph hastily changed the subject, but he had forebodings as to
the future.

Christine went to her room, and thought for a long time; suddenly she
arose, exclaiming, "He told me his story once on canvas; I will now
tell him mine."

She at once stretched the canvas on a frame for a small picture, and
placed it on an easel, that she might commence with dawn of day.

During the following weeks she worked scarcely less earnestly and
patiently than Dennis. The door was locked when she painted, and before
she left the studio the picture was hidden.

She meant to send it anonymously, so that not even her father should
know its authorship. She hoped that Dennis would recognize it.

When she was in the street her eyes began to have an eager, wistful
look, as if she was seeking some one. She often went to galleries, and
other resorts of artists, but in vain, for she never met him, though
at times the distance between them was less than between Evangeline
and her lover, when she heard the dip of his oar in her dream. Though
she knew that if she met him she would probably give not one encouraging
glance, yet the instinct of her heart was just as strong.

Mr. Ludolph told the maid that she must find out what Christine was
painting, and she tried to that degree that she wakened suspicion.

On one occasion Christine turned suddenly on her, and said: "What do
you mean? If I find you false--if I have even good reason to suspect
you--I will turn you into the street, though it be at midnight!"

And the maid learned, as did Mr. Ludolph, that she was not dealing
with a child.

During Monday, October 2, Dennis was employed all the long day in
giving the finishing touches to his picture. It was not worked up as
finely as he could have wished; time did not permit this. But he had
brought out his thought vividly, and his drawings were full of power.
On the following Saturday the prize would be given.

In the evening he walked out for air and exercise. As he was passing
one of the large hotels, he heard his name called. Turning, he saw on
the steps, radiant with welcome, his old friend, Susie Winthrop. Her
hand was on the arm of a tall gentleman, who seemed to have eyes for her
only. But in her old impulsive way she ran down the steps, and
gave Dennis a grasp of the hand that did his lonely heart good. Then,
leading him to the scholarly-looking gentleman, who was gazing through
his glasses in mild surprise, she said: "Professor Leonard, my husband,
Mr. Fleet. This is the Dennis Fleet I have told you about so often."

"Oh-h," said the professor, in prolonged accents, while a genial light
shone through his gold spectacles. "Mr. Fleet, we are old acquaintances,
though we have never met before. If I were a jealous man, you are the
only one I should fear."

"And we mean to make you wofully jealous to-night, for I intend to
have Mr. Fleet dine with us and spend the evening. Wo, I will take no
excuse, no denial. This infatuated man will do whatever I bid him, and
he is a sort of Greek athlete. If you do not come right along I shall
command him to lay violent hands on you and drag you ignominiously in."

Dennis was only too glad to accept, but merely wished to make a better
toilet.

"I have just come from my studio," he said.

"And you wish to go and divest yourself of all artistic flavor and
become commonplace. Do you imagine I will permit it? No! so march in
as my captive. Who ever heard of disputing the will of a bride? This
man" (pointing up to the tall professor) "never dreams of it."

Dennis learned that she was on her wedding trip, and saw that she was
happily married, and proud of her professor, as he of her.

With feminine tact she drew his story from him, and yet it was but a
meagre, partial story, like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out,
for he tried to be wholly silent on his love and disappointment. But
in no respect did he deceive Mrs. Leonard. Her husband went away for
a little time. In his absence she asked, abruptly, "Have you seen Miss
Ludolph lately?"

"No!" said Dennis, with a tell-tale flush. Seeing her look of sympathy,
and knowing her to be such a true friend, the impulsive young man gave
his confidence almost before he knew it. She was just the one to inspire
trust, and he was very lonely, having had no one to whom he could speak
his deeper feelings since his mother died.

"Miss Ludolph wronged me in a way that a man finds it hard to forget
or forgive," he said, in a low, bitter tone; "but I should have tried
to do both had she not treated my mother most inhumanly;" and he told
his story over again with Hamlet in.

Mrs. Leonard listened with breathless interest, and then said: "She
is a strange girl, and that plan of making you her unconscious model
is just like her, though it was both cruel and wicked. And yet Mr.
Fleet, with shame for my sex I admit it, how many would have flirted
with you to the same degree from mere vanity and love of excitement!
I have seen Miss Ludolph, and I cannot understand her. We are no longer
the friends we once were, but I cannot think her utterly heartless.
She is bent upon becoming a great artist at any cost, and I sometimes
think she would sacrifice herself as readily as any one else for this
purpose. She looks to me as if she had suffered, and she has lost much
of her old haughty, cold manner, save when something calls it out.
Even in the drawing-room she was abstracted, as if her thoughts were
far away. You are a man of honor, and it is due that you should know
the following facts. Indeed I do not think that they are a secret any
longer, and at any rate they will soon be known. If Mr. Ludolph were
in Germany he would be a noble. It is his intention to go there this
fall, and take his wealth and Christine with him, and assert his
ancestral titles and position. Christine could not marry in this land
without incurring her father's curse, and I think she has no disposition
to do that--her ambition is fully in accord with his."

"Yes," said Dennis, bitterly, "and where other women have hearts, she
has ambition only."

The professor returned and the subject was dropped.

Dennis said, on taking his leave: "I did not expect to show any one
my picture till it was placed on exhibition with the others, but, if
you care to see it, you may to-morrow. Perhaps you can make some
suggestions that will help me."

They eagerly accepted the invitation, and came the following morning.
Dennis watched them with much solicitude. When once they understood
his thought, their delight and admiration knew no bounds. The professor
turned and stared at him as if he were an entirely different person
from the unpretending youth who had been introduced on the preceding
evening.

"If you do not get the prize," he said, sententiously, "you have a
great deal of artistic talent in Chicago."

"'A Daniel come to judgment!'" cried his wife.



CHAPTER XL

SUGGESTIVE PICTURES AND A PRIZE


At last the day of the exhibition dawned. Dennis had sent his picture,
directed to Mr. Cornell, with his own name in an envelope nailed to
its back. No one was to know who the artists were till after the
decision was given. Christine had sent hers also, but no name whatever
was in the envelope attached to it.

At an early hour, the doors were thrown open for all who chose to come.
The committee of critics had ample time given them for their decision,
and at one o'clock this was to be announced.

Although Dennis went rather early, he found that Christine was there
before him. She stood with Professor and Mrs. Leonard, Mr. Cornell,
and her father, before his picture, fie could only see her side face,
and she was glancing from the printed explanation in the catalogue to
the painting. Mrs. Leonard was also at her side, seeing to it that no
point was unnoted. Christine's manner betrayed intense interest and
excitement, and with cause, for again Dennis had spoken to her deepest
soul in the language she best loved and understood.

As before, she saw two emblematic pictures within one frame merely
separated by a plain band of gold.

The first presented a chateau of almost palatial proportions, heavy,
ornate, but stiff and quite devoid of beauty. It appeared to be the
abode of wealth and ancestral greatness.

Everything about the place indicated lavish expenditure. The walks and
trees were straight and formal, the flowers that bloomed here and
there, large and gaudy. A parrot hung in a gilded cage against a column
of the piazza. No wild songsters fluttered in the trees, or were on
the wing. Hills shut the place in and gave it a narrow, restricted
appearance, and the sky overhead was hard and brazen. On the lawn stood
a graceful mountain ash, and beneath it were two figures. The first
was that of a man, and evidently the master of the place. His appearance
and manner chiefly indicated pride, haughtiness, and also sensuality.
He had broken a spray from the ash-tree, and with a condescending air
was in the act of handing it to a lady, in the portraiture of whom
Dennis had truly displayed great skill. She was very beautiful, and
yet there was nothing good or noble in her face. Her proud features
showed mingled shame and reluctance to receive the gift in the manner
it was bestowed, and yet she was receiving it. The significance of the
mountain ash is "Grandeur." The whole scene was the portrayal, in the
beautiful language of art, of a worldly, ambitious marriage, where the
man seeks mere beauty, and the woman wealth and position, love having
no existence.

It possessed an eloquence that Christine could not resist, and she
fairly loathed the alliance she knew her father would expect her to
make after their arrival in Germany, though once she had looked forward
to it with eagerness as the stepping-stone to her highest ambition.

The second picture was a beautiful contrast. Instead of the brazen
glare of the first, the air was full of glimmering lights and shades,
and the sky of a deep transparent blue. Far up a mountain side, on an
overhanging cliff, grew the same graceful ash-tree, but its branches
were entwined with vines of the passion-flower that hung around in
slender streamers. On a jutting rock, with precarious footing, stood
a young man reaching up to grasp a branch, his glance bold and hopeful,
and his whole manner full of daring and power. He had evidently had
a hard climb to reach his present position; his hat was gone; his dress
was light and simple and adapted to the severest effort.

But the chief figure in this picture also was that of a young girl who
stood near, her right hand clasping his left, and steadying and
sustaining him in his perilous footing. The wind was in her golden
hair, and swept to one side her light, airy costume. Her pure, noble
face was lilted up toward _him_, rather than toward the spray he sought
to grasp, and an eager, happy light shone from her eyes. She had
evidently climbed _with_ him to their present vantage-point, and now her
little hand secured and strengthened him as he sought to grasp, for her,
success and prosperity joined with unselfish love. The graceful
wind-flowers tossed their delicate blossoms around their feet, and above
them an eagle wheeled in its majestic flight.

Below and opposite them on a breezy hillside stood a modern villa, as
tasteful in its architecture as the former had been stiff and heavy.
A fountain played upon the lawn, and behind it a cascade broke into
silver spray and mist. High above this beautiful earthly home, in the
clear, pure air rose a palace-like structure in shadowy, golden outline,
indicating that after the dwelling-place of time came the grander, the
perfect mansion above.

Christine looked till her eyes were blinded with tears, and then dropped
her veil. In the features of the lady in each case she had not failed
to trace a faint likeness, sufficient to make it clear to herself. She
said in a low, plaintive tone, with quivering lips, "Mr. Fleet painted
that picture."

"Yes," said Mrs. Leonard, looking at her with no little wonder and
perplexity.

By a great effort Christine recovered herself and said, "You know how
deeply fine paintings always affect me."

Dennis of course knew nothing of Christine's feelings. He could only
see that his picture had produced a profound effect on her, and that
she had eyes for nothing else. But he overheard Mr. Cornell say, "It
is indeed a remarkable painting."

"Do you know its author?" asked Mr. Ludolph, with a heavy frown.

"No, I do not. It is still a mystery."

"Will it take the prize, do you think?"

"I am not at liberty to give an opinion as yet," replied Mr. Cornell,
with a smile. "There is another picture here, almost if not quite as
fine, though much smaller and simpler;" and he took Mr. Ludolph off
to show him that.

Dennis was now recognized by Mrs. Leonard and her husband, who came
forward and greeted him cordially, and they started on a tour of the
gallery together. Though his heart beat fast, he completely ignored
Christine's presence, and responded coldly to Mr. Ludolph's slight bow.

Christine, on being aware of his presence, furtively devoured him with
her eyes. The refining influences of his life were evident in his face
and bearing, and she realized her ideal of what a man ought to be.
Eagerly she watched till he should discover her painting where it hung
opposite his own, and at last she was amply rewarded for all her toil.
He stopped suddenly and stood as if spellbound.

The picture was very simple, and few accessories entered into it. Upon
a barren rock of an island stood a woman gazing far out at sea, where
in the distance a ship was sailing _away_. Though every part had been
worked up with exquisite finish, the whole force and power of the
painting lay in the expression of the woman's face, which was an
indescribable mingling of longing and despair. Here also Christine had
traced a faint resemblance to herself, though the woman was middle-aged
and haggard, with famine in her cheeks.

As Dennis looked and wondered, the thought flashed into his mind, "Could
_she_ have painted that?" He turned suddenly toward her and was
convinced that she had done so; for she was looking at him with
something of the same expression, or at least he fancied so. She blushed
deeply and turned hastily away. He was greatly agitated, but in view of
the eyes that were upon him controlled himself and remained outwardly
calm.

Mr. Ludolph also was convinced that his daughter had painted the
picture, and he frowned more heavily than before. He turned a dark
look on her, and found her regarding Dennis in a manner that caused
him to grind his teeth with rage. But he could only sit down and watch
the course of events.

The people were now thronging in. The gentlemen who made up the prize,
with their committee of award, of which Mr. Cornell was chairman, were
also present. Most critically they examined each picture till at last
their choice narrowed down to the two paintings above described. But
it soon became evident that their choice would fall upon the larger
one, and Dennis saw that he was to be the victor. To his surprise
Christine seemed utterly indifferent as to the result of their decision.
He could not know that the prize had no place in her thoughts when she
painted her picture. She had found her reward in its effect on him.

At one o'clock Mr. Cornell came forward and said: "Ladies and gentlemen,
and especially do I address that group of liberal citizens who are so
generously seeking to encourage art in our great and prosperous city,
it gives me pleasure to inform you that your munificence has brought
forth rich fruit, for here are many paintings that would do credit to
any gallery. We hesitated a little time between two very superior
pictures, but at last we have decided that the larger one is worthy
of the prize. The smaller picture is one of great merit; its treatment
is unusually fine, though the subject is not new.

"The two emblematic pictures in some parts show crude and hasty work;
indeed some minor parts are quite unfinished. The artist evidently has
not had sufficient time. But the leading features are well wrought
out, and the power and originality of the entire effort so impress us
that, as I have said, we render our decision in its favor. That all
may know our verdict to be fair, we state on our honor that we do not
know by whom a single painting present was executed. Dr. Arten, as the
largest contributor toward the prize, you are appointed to bestow it.
On the back of the picture you will find an envelope containing the
name of the artist, whom we all shall delight to honor."

Amid breathless expectation, Dr. Arten stepped forward, took down the
envelope, and read in a loud, trumpet-voice--

"DENNIS FLEET."



CHAPTER XLI

FIRE! FIRE!


"Will Dennis Fleet come forward?" cried Dr. Arten. Very pale, and
trembling with excitement, Dennis stepped out before them all.

"Take heart, my young friend; I am not about to read your
death-warrant," said the doctor, cheerily. "Permit me to present you
with this check for two thousand dollars, and express to you what is
of more value to the true artist, our esteem and appreciation of your
merit. May your brush ever continue to be employed in the presentation
of such noble, elevating thoughts."

And the good doctor, quite overcome by this unusual flight of eloquence,
blew his nose vigorously and wiped from his spectacles the moisture
with which his own eyes had bedewed them.

Dennis responded with a low bow, and was about to retire; but his few
friends, and indeed all who knew him, pressed forward with their
congratulations.

Foremost among these were the professor and his wife. Tears of delight
fairly shone in Mrs. Leonard's eyes as she shook his hand again and
again. Many others also trooped up for an introduction, till he was
quite bewildered by strange names, and compliments that seemed stranger
still.

Suddenly a low, well-known voice at his side sent a thrill to his heart
and a rush of crimson to his face.

"Will Mr. Fleet deign to receive my congratulations also?"

He turned and met the deep blue eyes of Christine Ludolph lifted timidly
to his. But at once the association that had long been uppermost in
regard to her--the memory of her supposed treatment of his
mother--flashed across him, and he replied, with cold and almost stately
courtesy, "The least praise or notice from Miss Ludolph would be a
most unexpected favor."

She thought from his manner that he might as well have said
"unwelcome favor," and with a sad, disappointed look she turned away.

Even in the excitement and triumph of the moment, Dennis was oppressed
by the thought that he had not spoken as wisely as he might. Almost
abruptly he broke away and escaped to the solitude of his own room.

He did not think about his success. The prize lay forgotten in his
pocketbook. He sat in his arm-chair and stared apparently at vacancy,
but in reality at the picture that he was sure Christine had painted.
He went over and over again with the nicest scrutiny all her actions
in the gallery, and now reproached himself bitterly for the repelling
answer he had given when she spoke to him. He tried to regain his old
anger and hardness in view of her wrongs to him and his, but could
not. The tell-tale picture, and traces of sorrow and suffering in her
face in accord with it, had disarmed him. He said to himself, and half
believed, that he was letting his imagination run away with his reason,
but could not help it. At last he seized his hat and hastened to the
hotel where Mrs. Leonard was staying. She at once launched out into
a eulogistic strain descriptive of her enjoyment of the affair.

"I never was so proud of Chicago," she exclaimed. "It is the greatest
city in the world. Only the other day her streets were prairies. I
believe my husband expected to find buffalo and Indians just outside
the town. But see! already, by its liberality and attention to art,
it begins to vie with some of our oldest cities. But what is the matter?
You look so worried."

"Oh, nothing," said Dennis, coming out of his troubled, abstracted
manner.

With her quick intuition, Mrs. Leonard at once divined his thoughts,
and said soon after, when her husband's back was turned: "All I can
say is, that she was deeply, most deeply affected by your picture, but
she said nothing to me, more than to express her admiration. My friend,
you had better forget her. They sail for Europe very soon; and, besides,
she is not worthy of you."

"I only wish I could forget her, and am angry with myself but I cannot,"
he replied, and soon after said "good-night."

Wandering aimlessly through the streets, he almost unconsciously made
his way to the north side, where the Ludolph mansion was situated. Then
a strong impulse to Go to it came over him, and for the first time
since the far-off day when, stunned and wounded by his bitter
disappointment, he had gone away apparently to die, he found himself
at the familiar place. The gas was burning in Mr. Ludolph's library.
He went around on the side street (for the house was on a corner), and
a light shone from what he knew to be Christine's studio. She
undoubtedly was there. Even such proximity excited him strangely, and
in his morbid state he felt that he could almost kiss the feeble rays
that shimmered out into the darkened street. In his secret soul he
utterly condemned his folly, but promised himself that he would be
weak no longer after that one night. The excitements of the day had
thrown him off his balance.

Suddenly he heard, sweet and clear, though softened by distance and
intervening obstacles, the same weird, pathetic ballad that had so
moved him when Christine sang it at Le Grand Hotel, on the evening
after he had pointed out the fatal defect in her picture. At short
intervals, kindred and plaintive songs followed.

"There is nothing exultant or hopeful about those strains," he said
to himself. "For some reason she is not happy. Oh, that I might have
one frank conversation with her and find out the whole truth! But it
seems that I might just as well ask for a near look at yonder star
that glimmers so distantly. For some reason I cannot believe her so
utterly heartless as she has seemed; and then mother has prayed. Can
it all end as a miserable dream?"

Late at night the music ceased, and the room was darkened.

Little dreamed Christine that her plaintive minstrelsy had fallen on
so sympathetic an ear, and that the man who seemingly had repelled her
slightest acquaintance had shivered long hours in the cold, dark street.

So the divine Friend waits and watches, while we, in ignorance and
unbelief, pay no heed. Stranger far, He waits and watches when we know,
but yet, unrelenting, ignore His presence.

With heavy steps, Dennis wearily plodded homeward. He was oppressed
by that deep despondency which follows great fatigue and excitement.

In the southwest he saw a brilliant light. He heard the alarm-bells,
and knew there was a fire, but to have aroused him that night it
must have come scorchingly close. He reached his dark little room, threw
himself dressed on the couch, and slept till nearly noon of the next
day.

When he awoke, and realized how the first hours of the Sabbath had
passed, he started up much vexed with himself, and after a brief
retrospect said: "Such excitements as those of yesterday are little
better than a debauch, and I must shun them hereafter. God has blessed
and succeeded me, and it is but a poor return I am making. However my
unfortunate attachment may end, nothing is gained by moping around in
the hours of night. Henceforth let there be an end of such folly."

He made a careful toilet and sat down to his Sabbath-school lesson.

To his delight he again met Mrs. Leonard, who came to visit her
old mission class. She smiled most approvingly, and quoted, "He that is
faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much."

He went home with her, and in the evening they all went to church
together.

He cried unto the Lord for strength and help, and almost lost
consciousness of the service in his earnest prayer for true manhood
and courage to go forward to what he feared would be a sad and lonely
life. And the answer came; for a sense of power and readiness to do
God's will, and withal a strange hopefulness, inspired him. Trusting
in the Divine strength, he felt that he could meet his future now,
whatever it might be.

Again the alarm-bells were ringing, and there was a light on the
southwest.

"There seems to be a fire over there in the direction of my poor German
friend's house. You remember Mrs. Bruder. I will go and call on them,
I think. At any rate I should call, for it is owing to her husband
that I won the prize;" and they parted at the church-door.

Christine had left the picture-gallery soon after Dennis's abrupt
departure. Her gay friends had tried in vain to rally her, and rather
wondered at her manner, but said, "She is so full of moods of late,
you can never know what to expect."

Her father, with a few indifferent words, left her for his place of
business. His hope still was to prevent her meeting Dennis, and to
keep up the estrangement that existed.

Christine went home and spent the long hours in bitter revery, which
at last she summed up by saying, "I have stamped out his love by my
folly, and now his words, 'I despise you,' express the whole wretched
truth." Then clenching her little hands she added, with livid lips and
a look of scorn: "Since I can never help him (and therefore no one)
win earthly greatness, I will never be the humble recipient of it from
another. Since his second picture cannot be true of my experience,
neither shall the first."

And she was one to keep such a resolve. The evening was spent, as we
know, in singing alone in her studio, this being her favorite, indeed
her only way, of giving expression to her feelings. Very late she
sought her bed to find but little sleep.

The day of rest brought no rest to her, suggested no hope, no sacred
privilege of seeking Divine help to bear up under life's burdens. To
her it was a relic of superstition, at which she chafed as interfering
with the usual routine of affairs. She awoke with a headache, and a
long miserable day she found it. Sabbath night she determined to have
sleep, and therefore took an opiate and retired early.

Mr. Ludolph sat in his library trying to construct some plan by which
Christine could be sent to Germany at once.

When Dennis reached the neighborhood of the fire he found it much
larger than he supposed, and when he entered Harrison Street, near
Mrs. Bruder's home, he discovered that only prompt action could save
the family. The streets were fast becoming choked with fugitives and
teams, and the confusion threatened to develop into panic and wide
spread danger. The fire was but a block away when he rushed upstairs
to the floor which the Bruders occupied. From the way in which blazing
brands were flying he knew that there were was not a moment to spare.

He found Mrs. Bruder startled, anxious, but in no way comprehending
the situation.

"Quick!" cried Dennis. "Wake and dress the children--pack up what you
can lay your hands on and carry--you have no time to do anything more."

"Ah! mine Gott! vat you mean?"

"Do as I say--there's no time to explain. Here, Ernst, help me;" and
Dennis snatched up one child and commenced dressing it before it could
fairly wake. Ernst took up another and followed his example. Mrs.
Bruder, recovering from her bewilderment, hastily gathered a few things
together, saying in the meantime, "Surely you don't dink our home burn
up?"

"Yes, my poor friend, in five minutes more we must all be out of this
building."

"Oh, den come dis minute! Let me save de schilder;" and, throwing a
blanket around the youngest, the frightened woman rushed downstairs,
followed by Ernst and his little brother, while Dennis hastened with
the last child and the bundle.

Their escape was none too prompt, for the blazing embers were falling
to such a degree in the direct line of the fire as to render that
position very perilous. But though their progress was necessarily slow,
from the condition of the streets, the breadth of the fire was not
great at this spot, and they soon reached a point to the west and
windward that was safe. Putting the family in charge of Ernst, and
telling them to continue westward, Dennis rushed back, feeling that
many lives depend upon stout hands and brave hearts that night. Moreover
he was in that state of mind which made him court rather than shun
danger.

He had hardly left his humble friends before Mrs. Bruder stopped, put
her hand on her heart and cried: "Oh, Ernst! Oh, Gott forgive me! dot
I should forget him--your fader's picture. I must go back."

"Oh, moder, no! you are more to us than the picture" The woman's eyes
were wild and excited, and she cried, vehemently: "Dot picture saved
mine Berthold life--yes, more, more, him brought back his artist soul.
Vithout him ve vould all be vorse dan dead. I can no live vidout him.
Stay here"; and with the speed of the wind the devoted wife rushed
back to the burning street, up the stairs, already crackling and
blazing, to where the lovely landscape smiled peacefully in the dreadful
glare, with its last rich glow of beauty. She tore it from its
fastenings, pressed her lips fervently against it, regained the street,
but with dress on fire. She staggered forward a few steps in the hot
stifling air and smoke, and then fell upon her burden. Spreading her
arms over it, to protect it even in death, the mother's heart went out
in agony toward her children.

"Ah, merciful Gott! take care of dem," she sighed, and the prayer and
the spirit that breathed it went up to heaven together.



CHAPTER XLII

BARON LUDOLPH LEARNS THE TRUTH


With eyes ablaze with excitement, Dennis plunged into the region just
before the main line of fire, knowing that there the danger would be
greatest. None realized the rapidity of its advance. At the door of
a tenement-house he found a pale, thin, half-clad woman tugging at a
sewing-machine.

"Madam," cried Dennis, "you have no time to waste over that burden if
you wish to escape."

"What is the use of escaping without it?" she answered, sullenly. "It
is the only way I have of making a living."

"Give it to me then, and follow as fast as you can." Shouldering what
meant to the poor creature shelter, clothing, and bread, he led the
way to the southeast, out of the line of fire. It was a long, hard
struggle, but they got through safely.

"How can I ever pay you?" cried the grateful woman.

But he did not stay to answer, and now determined to make his way to
the west and windward of the fire, as he could then judge better of
the chances of its spreading. He thought it safer to go around and back
of the flames, as they now seemed much wider, and nearer the south
branch of the Chicago River.

He found that he could cross the burned district a little to the
southwest, for the small wooden houses were swept so utterly away that
there were no heated, blazing ruins to contend with. He also saw that
he could do better by making quite a wide circuit, as he thus avoided
streets choked by fugitives. Beaching a point near the river on the
west side of the fire, he climbed a high pile of lumber, and then
discovered to his horror that the fire had caught in several places
on the south side, and that the nearest bridges were burning.

To those not familiar with the topography of the city, it should be
stated that it is separated by the Chicago River, a slow, narrow stream,
into three main divisions, known as the south, the north, and the west
side.

By a triumph of engineering, the former mouth of this river at the
lake is now its source, the main stream being turned back upon itself,
and dividing into two branches at a point a little over half a mile
from the lake, one flowing to the southwest into the Illinois, and the
other from the northwest into the main stream.

The south division includes all the territory bounded on the east by the
lake, on the north by the main river and on the west by the south
branch. The north division includes the area bounded on the east by
the lake, on the south by the main river, and on the west by the north
branch, while the west division embraces all that part of the city
west of the two branches. The fire originated in De Koven Street, the
southeastern part of the west side, and it was carried steadily to the
north and east by an increasing gale. The south side, with all its
magnificent buildings, was soon directly in the line of the fire.

When Dennis saw that the flames had crossed the south branch, and were
burning furiously beyond, he knew that the best part of the city was
threatened with destruction. He hastened to the Washington Street
tunnel, where he found a vast throng, carrying all sorts of burdens,
rushing either way. He plunged in with the rest, and soon found himself
hustled hither and thither by a surging mass of humanity. A little
piping voice that seemed under his feet cried: "O mamma! mamma! Where
are you? I'm gettin' lost."

"Here I am, my child," answered a voice some steps in advance and
Dennis saw a lady carrying another child; but the rushing tide would
not let her wait--all, in the place where they were wedged, being
carried right along. Stooping down, he put the little girl on his
shoulder where she could see her mother, and so they pressed on.
Suddenly, in the very midst of the tunnel, the gas ceased, by reason
of the destruction of the works, and utter darkness filled the place.

There was a loud cry of consternation, and then a momentary and dreadful
silence, which would have been the preface of a fatal panic, had not
Dennis cried out, in a ringing voice, "All keep to the right!"

This cry was taken up and repeated on every hand, and side by side,
to right and left, the two living streams of humanity, with steady
tramp! tramp! rushed past each other.

When they emerged into the glare of the south side Dennis gave the
child to its mother and said, "Madam, your only chance is to escape
in that direction," pointing northwest.

He then tried to make his way to the hotel where Professor and Mrs.
Leonard were staying, but it was in the midst of an unapproachable sea
of fire. If they had not escaped some little time before, they had
already perished. He then tried to make his way to the windward toward
his own room. His two thousand dollars and all his possessions were
there, and the instinct of self-preservation caused him to think it
was time to look after his own. But progress was now very difficult.
The streets were choked by drays, carriages, furniture, trunks, and
every degree and condition of humanity. Besides, his steps were often
stayed by thrilling scenes and the need of a helping hand. In order
to make his way faster he took a street nearer the fire, from which
the people had mostly been driven. As he was hurrying along with his
hat drawn over his eyes to avoid the sparks that were driven about
like fiery hail, he suddenly heard a piercing shriek. Looking up he
saw the figure of a woman at the third story window of a fine mansion
that was already burning, though not so rapidly as those in the direct
line of the fire. He with a number of others stopped at the sound.

"Who will volunteer with me to save that woman?" cried he.

"Wal, stranger, you can reckon on this old stager for one," answered
a familiar voice.

Dennis turned and recognized his old friend, the Good Samaritan.

"Why, Cronk," he cried, "don't you know me? Don't you remember the
young man you saved from starving by suggesting the snow-shovel
business?"

"Hello! my young colt. How are you? give us yer hand. But come, don't
let's stop to talk about snow in this hell of a place with that young
filly whinnying up there."

"Right!" cried Dennis. "Let us find a ladder and rope; quick--"

At a paint-shop around the corner a ladder was found that reached to
the second story, and some one procured a rope.

"A thousand dollars," cried another familiar voice, "to the man who
saves that woman!"

Looking round, Dennis saw the burly form of Mr. Brown, the brewer, his
features distorted by agony and fear; then glancing up he discovered
in the red glare upon her face that the woman was no other than his
daughter. She had come to spend the night with a friend, and, being
a sound sleeper, had not escaped with the family.

"Who wants yer thousand dollars?" replied Bill Cronk's gruff voice.
"D'ye s'pose we'd hang out here over the bottomless pit for any such
trifle as that? We want to save the gal."

Before Cronk had ended his characteristic speech, Dennis was half-way
up the ladder. He entered the second story, only to be driven back by
fire and smoke.

"A pole of some kind!" he cried.

The thills of a broken-down buggy supplied this, but the flames had
already reached Miss Brown. Being a girl of a good deal of nerve and
physical courage, however, she tore off her outer clothing with her
own hands. Dennis now passed her the rope on the end of the buggy-thill
and told her to fasten it to something in the room that would support
her weight, and lower herself to the second story. She fastened it,
but did not seem to know how to lower herself. Dennis tried the rope,
found it would sustain his weight; then, bringing into use an art
learned in his college gymnasium, he over-handed rapidly till he stood
at Miss Brown's side. Drawing up the rope he fastened her to it and
lowered her to the ladder, where Bill Cronk caught her, and in a moment
more she was in her father's arms, who at once shielded her from
exposure with his overcoat. Dennis followed the rope down, and had
hardly got away before the building fell in.

"Is not this Mr. Fleet?" asked Miss Brown.

"Yes."

"How can we ever repay you?"

"By learning to respect honest men, even though they are not rich,
Miss Brown."

"Did you know who it was when you saved me?"

"Yes."

"Mr. Fleet, I sincerely ask your pardon."

But before Dennis could reply they were compelled to fly for their
lives.

Mr. Brown shouted as he ran, "Call at the house or place of business
of Thomas Brown, and the money will be ready."

But Thomas Brown would have found it hard work to rake a thousand
dollars out of the ashes of either place the following day. The riches
in which he trusted had taken wings.

Cronk and Dennis kept together for a short distance, and the latter
saw that his friend had been drinking. Their steps led them near a
large liquor-store which a party of men and boys were sacking. One of
these, half intoxicated, handed Bill a bottle of whiskey, but as the
drover was lifting it to his lips Dennis struck it to the ground. Cronk
was in a rage instantly.

"What the ---- did you do that for?" he growled.

"I would do that and more too to save your life. If you get drunk
to-night you are a lost man," answered Dennis, earnestly.

"Who's a-goin' ter get drunk, I'd like ter know? You feel yer oats too
much to-night. No man or horse can kick over the traces with me;" and
he went off in the unreasoning anger of a half-drunken man. But he
carried all his generous impulses with him, for a few minutes after,
seeing a man lying in a most dangerous position, he ran up and shook
him, crying, "I say, stranger, get up, or yer ribs will soon be
roasted."

"Lemme 'lone," was the maudlin answer. "I've had drink 'nuff. 'Tain't
mornin' yet."

"Hi, there!" cried a warning voice, and Cronk started back just in
time to escape a blazing wall that fell across the street. The stupefied
man he had sought to arouse was hopelessly buried. Cronk, having got
out of danger, stood and scratched his head, his favorite way of
assisting reflection.

"That's just what that young critter Fleet meant. What a cussed ole
mule I was to kick up so! Ten chances to one but it will happen to me
afore mornin'. Look here, Bill Cronk, you jist p'int out of this fiery
furnace. You know yer failin', and there's too long and black a score
agin you in t'other world for you to go to-night;" and Bill made a bee
line for the west side.

Struggling off to windward through the choked streets for a little
distance, Dennis ascended the side stairs of a tall building, in order
to get more accurately the bearings of the fire. He now for the first
time realized its magnitude, and was appalled. It appeared as if the
whole south side must go. At certain points the very heavens seemed
on fire. The sparks filled the air like flakes of fiery snow, and great
blazing fragments of roofs, and boards from lumber yards, sailed over
his head, with the ill-omened glare of meteors. The rush and roar of
the wind and flames were like the thunder of Niagara, and to this awful
monotone accompaniment was added a Babel of sounds--shrieks, and shouts
of human voices, the sharp crash of falling buildings, and ever and
anon heavy detonations, as the fire reached explosive material. As he
looked down into the white upturned faces in the thronged streets, it
seemed to him as if the people might be gathering for the last great
day. Above all the uproar, the court-house bell could be heard, with
its heavy, solemn clangor, no longer ringing alarm, but the city's
knell.

But he saw that if he reached his own little room in time to save
anything he must hasten. His course lay near the Art Building, the
place so thronged with associations to him. An irresistible impulse
drew him to it. It was evident that it must soon go, for an immense
building to the southwest, on the same block, was burning, and the
walls were already swaying.

Suddenly a man rushed past him, and Mr. Ludolph put his pass key in
the side door.

"Mr. Ludolph, it is not safe to enter," said Dennis.

"What are you doing here with your ill-omened face?" retorted his old
employer, turning toward him a countenance terrible in its expression.
As we have seen, anything that threatened Mr. Ludolph's interests,
even that which most men bow before, as sickness and disaster, only
awakened his anger; and his face was black with passion and distorted
with rage.

The door yielded, and he passed in.

"Come back, quick, Mr. Ludolph, or you are lost!" cried Dennis at the
door.

"I will get certain papers, though the heavens fall!" yelled back the
infuriated man, with an oath.

Dennis heard an awful rushing sound in the air. He drew his hat over
his face as he ran, crouching. Hot bricks rained around him, but
fortunately he escaped.

When he turned to look, the Art Building was a crushed and blazing
ruin. Sweet girlish faces that had smiled upon him from the walls,
beautiful classical faces that had inspired his artist soul, stern
Roman faces, that had made the past seem real, the human faces of gods
and goddesses that made mythology seem not wholly a myth, and the white
marble faces of the statuary, that ever reminded him of Christine,
were now all blackened and defaced forever. But not of these he thought,
as he shudderingly covered his eyes with his hands to shut out the
vision; but of that terrible face that in the darkness had yelled
defiance to Heaven.



CHAPTER XLIII

"CHRISTINE, AWAKE! FOR YOUR LIFE!"


Dennis was too much stunned and bewildered to do more than instinctively
work his way to the windward as the only point of safety, but the fire
was now becoming so broad in its sweep that to do this was difficult.
The awful event he had witnessed seemed partially to paralyze him; for
he knew that the oath, hot as the scorching flames, was scarcely uttered
before Mr. Ludolph's lips were closed forever. He and his ambitious
dream perished in a moment, and he was summoned to the other world to
learn what his proud reason scoffed at in this.

For a block or more Dennis was passively borne alone by the rushing
mob. Suddenly a voice seemed to shout almost in his ear, "The north
side is burning!" and he started as from a dream. The thought of
Christine flashed upon him, perishing perhaps in the flames. He
remembered that now she had no protector, and that he for the moment
had forgotten her; though in truth he had never imagined that she could
be imperilled by the burning of the north side.

In an agony of fear and anxiety he put forth every effort of which he
was capable, and tore through the crowd as if mad. There was no way
of getting across the river now save by the La Salle Street tunnel.
Into this dark passage he plunged with multitudes of others. It was
indeed as near Pandemonium as any earthly condition could be. Driven
forward by the swiftly pursuing flames, hemmed in on every side, a
shrieking, frenzied, terror-stricken throng rushed into the black
cavern. Every moral grade was represented there. Those who led abandoned
lives were plainly recognizable, their guilty consciences finding
expression in their livid faces. These jostled the refined and delicate
lady, who, in the awful democracy of the hour, brushed against thief
and harlot. Little children wailed for their lost parents, and many
were trampled underfoot. Parents cried for their children, women
shrieked for their husbands, some praying, many cursing with oaths as
hot as the flames that crackled near. Multitudes were in no other
costumes than those in which they had sprung from their beds. Altogether
it was a strange, incongruous, writhing mass of humanity, such as the
world had never looked upon, pouring into what might seem, in its
horrors, the mouth of hell.

As Dennis entered the utter darkness, a confused roar smote his ear
that might have appalled the stoutest heart, but he was now oblivious
to everything save Christine's danger. With set teeth he put his
shoulder against the living mass and pushed with the strongest till
he emerged into the glare of the north side. Here, escaping somewhat
from the throng, he made his way rapidly to the Ludolph mansion, which
to his joy he found was still considerably to the windward of the fire.
But he saw that from the southwest another line of flame was bearing
down upon it.

The front door was locked, and the house utterly dark. He rang the
bell furiously, but there was no response. He walked around under the
window and shouted, but the place remained as dark and silent as a
tomb. He pounded on the door, but its massive thickness scarcely
admitted of a reverberation.

"They must have escaped," he said; "but, merciful heaven! there must
be no uncertainty in this case. What shall I do?"

The windows of the lower story were all strongly guarded and hopeless,
but one opening on the balcony of Christine's studio seemed practicable
if it could be reached. A half-grown elm swayed its graceful branches
over the balcony, and Dennis knew the tough and fibrous nature of this
tree. In the New England woods of his early home he had learned to
climb for nuts like a squirrel, and so with no great difficulty he
mounted the trunk and dropped from an overhanging branch to the point
he sought. The window was down at the top, but the lower sash was
fastened. He could see the catch by the light of the fire. He broke
the pane of glass nearest it, hoping that the crash might awaken
Christine, if she were still there. But after the clatter died away
there was no sound. He then noisily raised the sash and stepped in.

What a rush of memories came over him as he looked around the familiar
place! There was the spot on which he had stood and asked for the love
that he had valued more than life. There stood the easel on which,
through Christine's gifted touch, his painted face had pleaded with
scarcely less eloquence, till he blotted it out with his own hand. In
memory of it all his heart again failed him, and he sighed, "She will
never love me."

But there was no time for sentiment. He called loudly: "Miss Ludolph,
awake! awake! for your life!"

There was no answer. "She must be gone," he said. The front room,
facing toward the west, he knew to be her sleeping-apartment. Going
through the passage, he knocked loudly, and called again; but in the
silence that followed he heard his own watch tick, and his heart beat.
He pushed the door open with the feeling of one profaning a shrine,
and looked timidly in. Even in that thrilling hour of peril and anxiety,
his eye was enraptured by the beauty of the room. Not only was it
furnished with the utmost luxuriance, but everything spoke of a quaint
and cultured taste, from the curious marble clock and bronze on the
mantel, even to the pattern of the Turkey carpet on which the glare
of the fire, as it glinted through the shutters, played faintly. One
of the most marked features, however, was an exquisite life-size statue
of Diana at the foot of the bed, grasping her bow with one hand, and
in the act of seizing an arrow with the other, as if aroused to
self-defence. When Dennis first saw it, he was so startled by its
lifelike attitude that he stepped back into the passage. But, with all
the beauty of the room, it was utterly pagan; not a single thing
suggested Christian faith or a knowledge of the true God. With the
exception of its modern air, it might just as well have been the
resting-place of a Greek or Roman maiden of rank.

Reassured, he timidly advanced again, and then for the first time,
between the two marble statuettes holding back the curtains of the
bed, saw Christine, but looking more white and deathlike than the
marble itself.

She lay with her face toward him. Her hair of gold, unconfined, streamed
over the pillow; one fair round arm, from which her night-robe had
slipped back, was clasped around her head, and a flickering ray of
light, finding access at the window, played upon her face and neck
with the strangest and most weird effect.

So deep was her slumber that she seemed dead, and Dennis, in his
overwrought state, thought that she was. For a moment his heart stood
still, and his tongue was paralyzed. A distant explosion aroused him.
Approaching softly he said, in an awed whisper (he seemed powerless
to speak louder), "Miss Ludolph!--Christine!"

But the light of the coming fire played and flickered over the still,
white face, that never before had seemed so strangely beautiful.

"Miss Ludolph!--Oh, Christine, awake!" cried Dennis, louder.

To his wonder and unbounded perplexity, he saw the hitherto motionless
lips wreathe themselves into a lovely smile, but otherwise there was
no response, and the ghostly light played and flickered on, dancing
on temple, brow, and snowy throat, and clasping the white arm in wavy
circlets of gold. It was all so weird and strange that he was growing
superstitious, and losing faith in his own senses. He could not know
that she was under the influence of an opiate, and that his voice of
all others could, like a faint echo, find access to her mind so deeply
sunk in lethargy.

But a louder and nearer explosion, like a warning voice, made him
wholly desperate; and he roughly seized her hand, determining to dispel
the illusion, and learn the truth at once.

Christine's blue eyes opened wide with a bewildered stare; a look of
the wildest terror came into them, and she started up and shrieked,
"Father! father!"

Then turning toward the as yet unknown invader, she cried, piteously:
"Oh, spare my life! Take everything; I will give you anything you ask,
only spare my life."

She evidently thought herself addressing a ruthless robber.

Dennis retreated toward the door the moment she awakened; and this
somewhat reassured her.

In the firm, quiet tone that always calms excitement he replied, "I
only ask you to give me your confidence, Miss Ludolph, and to join
with me, Dennis Fleet, in my effort to save your life."

"Dennis Fleet! Dennis Fleet! save my life! Oh, ye gods, what does it
all mean?" and she passed her hand in bewilderment across her brow,
as if to brush away the wild fancies of a dream.

"Miss Ludolph, as you love your life arouse yourself and escape! The
city is burning!"

"I don't believe it!" she cried, in an agony of terror and anger.
"Leave the room! How dare you! You are not Dennis Fleet; he is a white
man, and you are black! You are an impostor! Leave quick, or my father
will come and take your life! Father! father!"

Dennis without a word stepped to the window, tore aside the curtain,
threw open the shutters, and the fire filled the room with the glare
of noonday. At that moment an explosion occurred which shook the very
earth. Everything rattled, and a beautiful porcelain vase fell
crashing to the floor.

Christine shrieked and covered her face with her hands.

Dennis approached the bedside, and said in a gentle, firm tone that
she knew to be his: "Miss Ludolph, I _am_ Mr. Fleet. My face is
blackened through smoke and dust, as is every one's out in the streets
to-night. You know something of me, and I think you know nothing
dishonorable. Can you not trust me? Indeed you must; your life depends
upon it!"

"Oh, pardon me, Mr. Fleet!" she cried, eagerly. "I am not worthy of
this, but now that I know you, I do trust you from the depth of my
soul!"

"Prove it then by doing just as I bid you," he replied, in a voice so
firm and prompt that it seemed almost stern. Retreating to the door,
he continued: "I give you just five minutes in which to make your
toilet and gather a light bundle of your choicest valuables. Dress in
woollen throughout, and dress warmly. I will see that the servants are
aroused. Your father is on the south side, and cannot reach you. You
must trust in God and what I can do for you."

"I must trust to you _alone_," she said. "Please send my maid to me."

Mr. Ludolph had sipped his wine during the evening, and his servants
had sipped, in no dainty way, something stronger, and therefore had
not awakened readily. But the uproar in the streets had aroused them,
and Dennis found them scuttling down the upper stairs in a half-clad
state, each bearing a large bundle, which had been made up without
regard to _meum_ and _tuum_.

"Och, murther! is the world burning up?" cried the cook.

"Be still, ye howlin' fool," said the cool and travelled maid. "It's
only von big fire!"

"Go to your mistress and help her, quick!" cried Dennis.

"Go to my meestress! I go to de street and save my life."

"Oh, Janette!" cried Christine. "Come and help me!"

"I am meeserable zat I cannot. I must bid mademoiselle quick adieu,"
said the heartless creature, still keeping up the veneer of French
politeness.

Dennis looked through the upper rooms and was satisfied that they were
empty. Suddenly a piercing shriek from Christine sent him flying to
her room. As he ran he heard her cry, "Oh, Mr. Fleet! come! help!"

To go back a little (for on that awful night events marched as rapidly
as the flames, and the experience of years was crowded into hours, and
that of hours into moments), Christine had sought as best she could
to obey Dennis's directions, but she was sadly helpless, having been
trained to a foolish dependence on her maid. She had accomplished but
little when she heard a heavy step in the room. Looking up, she saw
a strange man regarding her with an evil eye.

"What do you want?" she faltered.

"You, for one thing, and all you have got, for another," was the brutal
reply.

"Leave this room!" she cried, in a voice she vainly tried to render
firm.

"Not just yet," he answered, with a satanic grin. She sought to escape
by him with the loud cry that Dennis heard, but the ruffian planted
his big grimy hand in the delicate frill of her night-robe where it
clasped her throat, and with a coarse laugh said: "Not so fast, my
dainty!"

Trembling and half fainting (for she had no physical courage), she
cried for Dennis, and never did knightly heart respond with more brave
and loving throb to the cry of helpless woman than his. He came with
almost the impetus of a thunderbolt, and the man, startled, looked
around, and catching a glimpse of Dennis's blazing eyes, dropped his
hold on Christine, and shrank and cowered from the blow he could not
avert. Before his hand could instinctively reach the pistol it sought,
there was a thud, and he fell like a log to the floor. Then, springing
upon him, Dennis took away his weapons, and, seizing him by the collar
of his coat, dragged him backward downstairs and thrust him into the
street. Pointing his own pistol at him, he said, "If you trouble us
again, I will shoot you like a dog!"

The villain slunk off, and finding some kindred spirits sacking a
liquor-store not far off, he joined the orgy, seeking to drown his
rage in rum, and he succeeded so effectually that he lay in the gutter
soon after. The escaping multitude trampled over him, and soon the
fire blotted out his miserable existence, as it did that of so many
who rendered themselves powerless by drink.

When Dennis returned he found Christine panting helplessly on a chair.

"Oh, dress! dress!" he cried. "We have not a moment to spare."

The sparks and cinders were falling about the house, a perfect storm
of fire. The roof was already blazing, and smoke was pouring down the
stairs.

At his suggestion she had at first laid out a heavy woollen dress and
Scotch plaid shawl. She nervously sought to put on the dress, but her
trembling fingers could not fasten it over her wildly throbbing bosom.
Dennis saw that in the terrible emergency he must act the part of a
brother or husband, and springing forward he assisted her with the
dexterity he had learned in childhood.

Just then a blazing piece of roof, borne on the wings of the gale,
crashed through the window, and in a moment the apartment, that had
seemed like a beautiful casket for a still more exquisite jewel, was
in flames.

Hastily wrapping Christine in the blanket shawl, he snatched her,
crying and wringing her hands, into the street.

Holding his hand she ran two or three blocks with all the speed her
wild terror prompted; then her strength began to fail, and she pantingly
cried that she could run no longer. But this rapid rush carried them
out of immediate peril, and brought them into the flying throng pressing
their way northward and westward. Wedged into the multitude they could
only move on with it in the desperate struggle forward. But fire was
falling about them like a meteoric shower.

Suddenly Christine uttered a sharp cry of pain. She had stepped on a
burning cinder, and then realized for the first time, in her excitement,
that her feet were bare.

"Oh, what shall I do?" she cried piteously, limping and leaning heavily
on Dennis's arm.

"Indeed, Miss Ludolph, from my heart I pity you."

"Can you save me? Oh, do you think you can save me?" she moaned, in
an agony of fear.

"Yes, I feel sure I can. At any rate I shall not leave you;" and taking
her a little out of the jostling crowd he kneeled and bound up the
burned foot with his handkerchief. A little further on they came to
a shoe-store with doors open and owners gone. Almost carrying Christine
into it, for her other foot was cut and bleeding, he snatched down a
pair of boy's stout gaiters, and wiping with another handkerchief the
blood and dust from her tender little feet, he made the handkerchiefs
answer for stockings, and drew the shoes on over them.

In the brief moment so occupied, Christine said, with tears in her
eyes: "Mr. Fleet, how kind you are! How little I deserve all this!"

He looked up with a happy smile, and she little knew that her few words
amply repaid him.

There was a crash in the direction of the fire. With a cry of fear,
Christine put out her hands and clung to him.

"Oh, we shall perish! Are you not afraid?"

"I tremble for you, Miss Ludolph."

"Not for yourself?"

"No! why should I? I am safe. Heaven and mother are just beyond this
tempest."

"I would give worlds for your belief."
"Come, quick!" cried he, and they joined the fugitives, and for a
half-hour pressed forward as fast as was possible through the choked
streets, Dennis merely saying an encouraging word now and then. Suddenly
she felt herself carried to one side, and falling to the ground with
him. In a moment he lifted her up, and she saw with sickening terror
an infuriated dray-horse plunging through the crowd, striking down
men, women, and children.

"Are you hurt?" he asked, gently, passing his arm around her and helping
her forward, that they might not lose a single step.

"Awful! Awful!" she said, in a low, shuddering tone.

The dreadful scenes and the danger were beginning to overpower her.

A little further on they reached an avenue to the northwest through
which Dennis hoped to escape. But they could make but little headway
through the dense masses of drays, carriages, and human beings, and
at last everything came to a deadlock. Their only hope was to stand
in their place till the living mass moved on again.

Strange, grotesque, and sad beyond measure were the scenes by which
they were surrounded. By the side of the aristocratic Christine, now
Baroness Ludolph, stood a stout Irishwoman, hugging a grunting,
squealing pig to her breast. A little in advance a hook-nosed spinster
carried in a cage a hook nosed parrot that kept discordantly crying,
"Polly want a cracker." At Dennis's left a delicate lady of the highest
social standing clasped to her bare bosom a babe that slept as
peacefully as in the luxurious nursery at home. At her side was a
little girl carrying as tenderly a large wax doll. A diamond necklace
sparkled like a circlet of fire around the lady's neck. Her husband
had gone to the south side, and she had had but time to snatch this
and her children. A crowd of obscene and profane rowdies stood just
behind them, and with brutal jest and coarse laughter they passed
around a whiskey-bottle. One of these roughs caught a glimpse of the
diamond necklace, and was putting forth his blackened hand to grasp
it, when Dennis pointed the captured pistol at him and said, "This is
law now!"

The fellow slunk back.

Just before them was a dray with a corpse half covered with a blanket.
The family sat around crying and wringing their hands, and the driver
stood in his seat, cursing and gesticulating for those in advance to
move on. Some moments passed, but there was no progress. Dennis became
very anxious, for the fire was rapidly approaching, and the sparks
were falling like hail. Every few moments some woman's dress was ablaze,
or some one was struck by the flying brands, and shrieks for help were
heard on every side. Christine, being clad in woollen, escaped this
peril in part. She stood at Dennis's side trembling like a leaf, with
her hands over her face to shut out the terrible sights.

At last the driver, fearing for his life, jumped off his dray and left
all to their fate. But a figure took his place that thrilled Dennis's
heart with horror.

There on the high seat stood Susie Winthrop--rather Mrs. Leonard. The
light of insanity glowed in her eyes; her long hair swept away to the
north, and turning toward the fiery tempest she bent forward as if
looking for some one. But after a moment she sadly shook her head, as
if she had sought in vain. Suddenly she reached out her white arms
toward the fire, and sang, clear and sweet above the horrid din:

    "O burning flakes of fiery snow,
     Bury me too, bury me deep;
     My lover sleeps thy banks below;
     Fall on me, that I may sleep!"

At this moment a blazing brand fell upon the horses' heads; they
startled forward, and the crazed lady fell over on the corpse below.
The animals being thoroughly terrified turned sharp around on the
sidewalk, and tore their way right toward the fire, trampling down
those in their track, and so vanished with their strangely assorted
load.

Dennis, fearing to stay any longer where he was, determined to follow
in their wake and find a street leading to the north less choked, even
though it might be nearer the fire, and so with his trembling companion
he pressed forward again.

Two blocks below he found one comparatively clear, but in terrible
proximity to the conflagration. Indeed, the houses were burning on
each side, but the street seemed clear of flame. He thought that by
swiftly running they could get through. But Christine's strength was
fast failing her, and just as they reached the middle of the block a
tall brick building fell across the street before them! Thus their
only path of escape was blocked by a blazing mass of ruins that it
would have been death to cross.

They seemed hemmed in on every side, and Dennis groaned in agony.

Christine looked for a moment at the impassable fiery barrier, then
at Dennis, in whose face and manner she read unutterable sympathy for
herself, and the truth flashed upon her.

With a piercing shriek she fainted dead away in his arms.



CHAPTER XLIV

ON THE BEACH


In the situation of supreme peril described in the last chapter, Dennis
stood a second helpless and hopeless. Christine rested a heavy burden
in his arms, happily unconscious.  Breathing an agonized prayer to
heaven, he looked around for any possibility of escape.  Just then an
express-wagon was driven furiously toward them, its driver seeking his
way out by the same path that Dennis had chosen.  As he reached them
the man saw the hopeless obstruction, and wheeled his horses.  As he
did so, quick as thought, Dennis threw Christine into the bottom of
the wagon, and, clinging to it, climbed into it himself.  He turned
her face downward from the fire, and, covering his own, he crouched
beside her, trusting all now to God.

The driver urged his horses toward the lake, believing that his only
chance.  They tore away through the blazing streets.  The poor man was
soon swept from his seat and perished, but his horses rushed madly on
till they plunged into the lake.

At the sound of water Dennis lifted his head and gave a cry of joy.
It seemed that the hand of God had snatched them from death.  Gently
he lifted Christine out upon the sands and commenced bathing her face
from the water that broke in spray at his feet.  She soon revived and
looked around.  In a voice full of awe and wonder she whispered, "Ah!
there is another world and another life, after all."

"Indeed there is, Miss Ludolph," said Dennis, supporting her on his
arm and bending over her, "but, thanks to a merciful Providence, you
are still in this one."

"How is it?" she said, with a bewildered air. "I do not understand.
The last I remember, we were surrounded by fire, you were despairing,
and it seemed that I died."

"You fainted, Miss Ludolph. But God as by a miracle brought us out of
the furnace, and for the present we are safe." After she had
sufficiently rallied from her excessive exhaustion and terror, he told
her how they escaped.

"I see no God in it all," she said; "only a most fortunate opportunity,
of which you, with great nerve and presence of mind, availed yourself.
To you alone, again and again this dreadful night, I owe my life."

"God uses us as His instruments to do His will. The light will come
to you by and by, and you will learn a better wisdom."

"In this awful conflagration the light has come. On every side I see
as in letters of fire, 'There is no God.' If it were otherwise these
scenes would be impossible. And any being permitting or causing the
evils and crimes this dreadful night has witnessed, I shall fear and
hate beyond the power of language to express."

She uttered these words sitting on the sands with multitudes of others,
her face (from which Dennis had washed the dust and smoke) looking in
the glare so wan and white that he feared, with a sickening dread,
that through exposure, terror, or some of the many dangers by which
they were surrounded, she might pass into the future world with all
her unbelief and spiritual darkness. He yearned over her with a
solicitude and pity that he could not express. She seemed so
near--indeed he could feel her form tremble, as she kneeled beside
her, and supported her by his arm--and yet, in view of her faithless
state, how widely were they separated! Should any one of the many
perils about them quench the little candle of her life, which even now
flickered faintly, where in the wide universe could he hope to meet
her again? God can no doubt console His children and make up to them
every loss, but the passionate heart, with its intense human love,
clings to its idol none the less. Dennis saw that the fire would
probably hem them in on the beach for the remainder of the night and
the following day. He determined therefore in every way possible to
beguile the weary, perilous hours, and, if she would permit it, to
lead her thoughts heavenward. Hence arose from time to time
conversations, to which, with joy, he found Christine no longer averse.
Indeed, she often introduced them.

Chafing her hands, he said in accents of the deepest sympathy, "How
I pity you, Miss Ludolph! It must indeed be terrible to possess your
thoughtful mind, to realize these scenes so keenly, and yet have no
faith in a Divine Friend. I cannot explain to you the mystery of
evil--why it came, or why it exists. Who can? I am but one of God's
little children, and only know with certainty that my Heavenly Father
loves and will take care of me."

"How do you know it?" she asked, eagerly.

"In several ways. Mainly because I feel it."

"It all seems so vague and unreal," she sighed, dreamily. "There is
nothing certain, assured. There is no test by which I can at once know
the truth."

"That does not prevent the truth from existing. That some are blind
is no proof that color does not exist."

"But how can you be sure there is a God? You never saw Him."

"I do not see the heat that scorches us, but I feel it, and know it
exists."

"But I feel the heat the same as yourself, and I have no consciousness
of a Divine Being."

"That does not take away my consciousness that He is my Saviour and
Friend. As yet you are spiritually dead. If you were physically dead,
you would not feel the heat of this fire."

"Oh, it is all mystery--darkness," she cried, piteously.

The sun had now risen quite above the waters of the lake, but seen
through the lurid smoke which swept over its face, it seemed like one
of the great red cinders that were continually sailing over their
heads. In the frightful glare, the transition from night to day had
scarcely been noted. The long, narrow beach was occupied by thousands
of fugitives, who were hemmed in on every side. On the south was the
river, skirted with fire, while opposite, on the west, the heat was
almost intolerable; on the east were the cold waves of the lake, and
on the north a burning pier that they could not cross. Their only hope
was to cling to that narrow line where fire and water mingled, and
with one element to fight the other. Here again was seen the mingling
of all classes which the streets and every place of refuge witnessed.
Judges, physicians, statesmen, clergymen, bankers, were jostled by
roughs and thieves. The laborer sat on the sand with his family, side
by side with the millionaire and his household. The poor debauched
woman of the town moaned and shivered in her scant clothing, at a slight
remove from the most refined Christian lady. In the unparalleled
disaster, all social distinctions were lost, levelled like the beach
on which the fugitives cowered. From some groups was heard the voice
of prayer; from others, bitter wailings and passionate cries for lost
members of the family; others had saved quantities of vile whiskey,
if nothing else, and made the scene more ghastly by orgies that seemed
not of earth. Added to the liquor were the mad excitement and
recklessness which often seize the depraved classes on such occasions.
They committed excesses that cannot be mentioned-these drunken, howling,
fighting wretches. Obscene epithets and words fell around like blows.
And yet all were so occupied with their own misfortunes, sufferings,
and danger, as scarcely to heed their neighbors, unless these became
very violent.

Upon this heterogeneous mass of humanity the fire rained down almost
as we imagine it to have fallen upon the doomed cities of the plain,
and the hot breath of the flames scorched the exposed cheek and crisped
even eyebrows and hair. Sparks, flakes, cinders, pieces of roof, and
fiery pebbles seemed to fill the air, and often cries and shrieks
announced that furniture and bedding which had been dragged thither,
and even the clothing of women and children, were burning. Added to
all the other terrors of the scene was the presence of large numbers
of horses and cattle, snorting and plunging in their fright and pain.

But the sound that smote Dennis's heart with the deepest commiseration
was the continuous wail of helpless little children, many of them
utterly separated from parents and friends, and in the very agony of
fear.

He greatly dreaded the effect of these upon Christine, knowing how,
in the luxurious past, she had been shielded from every rough
experience. But she at length rallied into something like composure.
Her constitution was elastic and full of vitality, and after escaping
from immediate danger she again began to hope. Moreover, to a degree
that even she could not understand, his presence was a source of
strength and courage, and her heart clung to him with desperate
earnestness, believing him the sole barrier against immediate death,
and (what she dreaded scarcely less) a lonely, wretched existence,
should her life be spared.

Though he never lost sight of her for a moment, and kept continually
wetting her hair and person, he found time to render assistance to
others, and, by carrying his hat full of water here and there,
extinguished many a dangerous spark. He also, again and again, snatched
up little children from under the trampling hoofs of frightened horses.

As she watched him, so self-forgetful and fearless, she realized more
and more vividly that he was sustained and animated by some mighty
principle that she knew nothing of, and could not understand. The
impression grew upon her that he was right and she wrong. Though it
all remained in mystery and doubt, she could not resist the logic of
true Christian action.

But as the day advanced the flames grew hotter, and their breath more
withering. About noon Dennis noticed that some shanties on the sand
near them were in danger of catching fire and perilling all in that
vicinity. Therefore he said, "Miss Ludolph, stay here where I leave
you for a little time, so that I may know just where to find you."

"Oh, do not leave me!" she pleaded: "I have no one in the wide world
to help me except you."

"I shall not be beyond call. You see those shanties there; if possible
we must keep them from burning, or the fire will come too near for
safety." Then, starting forward, he cried, "Who will volunteer to keep
the fire back? All must see that if those buildings burn we shall be
in danger."

Several men stepped forward, and with hats and anything that would
hold water they began to wet the old rookeries. But the fiery storm
swooped steadily down on them, and their efforts were as futile as if
they had tried to beat back the wind. Suddenly a mass of flame
leaped upon the buildings, and in a moment they were all ablaze.

"Into the lake, quick!" cried Dennis, and all rushed for the cool
waters.

Lifting Christine from the sand, and passing his arm around her
trembling, shivering form, he plunged through the breakers, and the
crowd pressed after him. Indeed they pushed him so far out in the cold
waves that he nearly lost his footing, and for a few moments Christine
lost hers altogether, and added her cries to those of the
terror-stricken multitude. But pushing in a little nearer the shore,
he held her firmly and said with the confidence that again inspired
hope: "Courage, Miss Ludolph. With God's help I will save you yet."

Even as she clung to him in the water, she looked into his face. He
was regarding her so kindly, so pitifully, that a great and generous
impulse, the richest, ripest fruit of her human love, throbbed at her
heart, and faltered from her lips--"Mr. Fleet, I am not worthy of
this risk on your part. If you will leave me you can save your own
life, and your life is worth so much more than mine!"

True and deep must have been the affection that could lead Christine
Ludolph to say such words to any human being. There was a time when,
in her creed, all the world existed but to minister to her. But she
was not sorry to see the look of pained surprise which came into
Dennis's face and to hear him say, very sadly: "Miss Ludolph, I did
not imagine that you could think me capable of that. I had the good
fortune to rescue Miss Brown last night, at greater peril than this,
and do you think I would leave you?"

"You are a true knight, Mr. Fleet," she said, humbly, "and the need
or danger of every defenceless woman is alike a sacred claim upon you."

Dennis was about to intimate that, though this was true in knightly
creed, still among all the women in the world there might be a
preference, when a score of horses, driven before the fire, and goaded
by the burning cinders, rushed down the beach, into the water, right
among the human fugitives.

Again went up the cry of agony and terror. Some were no doubt stricken
down not to rise again. In the melee Dennis pushed out into deeper
water, where the frantic animals could not plunge upon him. A child
floated near, and he snatched it up. As soon as the poor brutes became
quiet, clasping Christine with his right arm and holding up the child
with the other, he waded into shallow water.

The peril was now perhaps at its height, and all were obliged to wet
their heads, to keep even their hair from singeing. Those on the beach
threw water on each other without cessation. Many a choice bit of
property--it might be a piano, or an express-wagon loaded with the
richest furs and driven to the beach as a place of fancied security--now
caught fire, and added to the heat and consternation.

When this hour of extreme danger had passed, standing with the cold
billows of the lake breaking round him, and the billows of fire still
rolling overhead, Dennis began to sing in his loud, clear voice:

                  "Jesus, lover of my soul,
                    Let me to thy bosom fly,
                  While the billows near me roll,
                    While the tempest still is high."

Voice after voice joined in, some loud and strong, but others weak and
trembling--the pitiful cry of poor terror-stricken women to the only
One who it seemed could help them in their bitter extremity. Never
before were those beautiful words sung in such accents of clinging,
touching faith. Its sweet cadence was heard above the roar of the
flames and the breakers.

Christine could only cling weeping to Dennis.

When the hymn ceased, in harshest discord the voice of a half-drunken
man grated on their ears.

"An' what in bloody blazes does yer Jasus burn us all up for, I'd like
to know. Sure an' he's no right to send us to hell before our time."

"Oh, hush! hush!" cried a dozen voices, shocked and pained.

"Divil a bit will I hush, sure; an' haven't I as good a right to have
me say as that singin' parson!"

"You are an Irishman, are you not?" said Dennis, now venturing out of
the water.

"Yis! what have ye got to say agin it?" asked the man, belligerent at
once.

"Did you ever know an Irishman refuse to do what a lady asked of him?"

"Faith no, and I niver will."

"Then this lady, who is sick and suffering, asks you to please keep
still, and I will be still also; so that's fair."

The Irishman scratched his head a moment, and said in a quieter tone,
"Since ye spake so civil and dacent, I'll do as ye sez; and here's to
the leddy's health;" and he finished a bottle of whiskey, which he
soon laid him out on the beach.

"Thank you! Thank you!" said grateful voices on every side.

Dennis found the mother of the child and gave it to her; and then
causing Christine to sit down near the water, where he could easily
throw it on her, he stood at her side, vigilant and almost tender in
his solicitude.  Her tears were falling very fast, and he presently
stooped down and said, gently, "Miss Ludolph, I think the worst of the
danger is over."

"Oh, Mr. Fleet!" she whispered, "dreadful as it may seem to you, the
words of that drunken brute there are nearer the language of my heart
than those of your sweet hymn. How can a good God permit such creatures
and evils to exist?"

"Again I must say to you," said Dennis, "that I cannot explain the
mystery of evil. But I know this, God is superior to it; He will at
last triumph over it. The Bible reveals Him to us as able and as seeking
to deliver all who will trust Him and work with Him, and those who
venture out upon His promises find them true. Miss Ludolph, this is
not merely a matter of theory, argument, and belief. It is more truly
a matter of experience. The Bible invites, 'Oh, taste and see that the
Lord is good.' I have tasted and know He is. I have trusted Him for
years, and He never failed me."

"You certainly have been sustained throughout this dreadful scene by
a principle that I cannot understand, but I would give all the world
to possess it."

"You may possess it, Miss Ludolph."

"How? how?" she asked, eagerly.

"Do you wish to believe as I do?"

"Yes, indeed; and yet my heart rebels against a God who permits, even
if He does not cause, all this evil."

"Does it rebel against a Being who from first to last tries to save
men from evil?"

"Tries! tries! what an expression to apply to a God! Why does He not
do it in every case?"

"Because multitudes will not let Him."

"Oh, that is worse still! Surely, Mr. Fleet, you let your reason have
nothing to do with your faith. How can a poor and weak being like
myself prevent an Almighty one from doing what He pleases?"

"I am stronger than you, Miss Ludolph, and yet I could not have saved
you to-night unless you had first trusted me, and then done everything
in your power to further my efforts."

"But your power is human and limited, and you say God is all-powerful."

"Yes, but it is His plan and purpose never to save us against our will.
He has made us in His own image and endowed us with reason, conscience,
and a will to choose between good and evil.  He appeals to these noble
faculties from first to last.  He has given us hearts, and seeks to
win them by revealing His love to us.  More than all, His Spirit,
present in the world, uses every form of truth in persuading and making
us willing to become His true children. So you see that neither on the
one hand does God gather us up like drift-wood nor does He on the other
drag us at His chariot wheels, unwilling captives, as did those who,
at various times, have sought to overrun the world by force. God seeks
to conquer the world by the might of the truth, by the might of love."

Christine was hanging with the most eager interest on his words.
Suddenly his eyes, which had expressed such a kindly and almost tender
interest in her, blazed with indignation, and he darted up the beach.
Turning around she saw, at some little distance, a young woman most
scantily clad, clinging desperately to a bundle which a large, coarse
man was trying to wrench from her. The wretch, finding that he could
not loosen her hold, struck her in the face with such force that she
fell stunned upon the ground, and the bundle flew out of her hand.
He eagerly snatched it up, believing it to contain jewelry.  Before
he could escape he was confronted by an unexpected enemy.  But Dennis
was in a passion, and withal weak and exhausted, while his adversary
was cool, and an adept in the pugilistic art.  The two men fought
savagely, and Christine, forgetting herself in her instinctive desire
to help Dennis, was rushing to his side, crying, "If there is a man
here worthy of the name, let him strike for the right!" but before she
and others could reach the combatants the thief had planted his fist
on Dennis's temple. Though the latter partially parried the blow, it
fell with such force as to extend him senseless on the earth. The
villain, with a shout of derision, snatched up the bundle and dashed
off apparently toward the fire. There was but a feeble attempt made
to follow him. Few understood the case, and indeed scenes of violence
and terror had become so common that the majority had grown apathetic,
save in respect to their personal well-being.

Christine lifted the pale face, down which the blood was trickling,
into her lap, and cried, in a tone of indescribable anguish, "Oh, he
is dead! he is dead!"

"Oh, no, miss; he is not dead, I guess," said a good-natured voice
near. "Let me bring a hatful of water from the lake, and that'll bring
him to."

And so it did. Dennis opened his eyes, put his hand to his head, and
then looked around. But when he saw Christine bending over him with
tearful eyes, and realized how tenderly she had pillowed his aching
head, he started up with a deep flush of pleasure, and said: "Do not
be alarmed, Miss Ludolph; I was only stunned for a moment. Where is
the thief?"

"Oh, they let him escape," said Christine, indignantly.

"Shame!" cried Dennis, regaining his feet rather unsteadily.

"Wal, stranger, a good many wrongs to-night must go unrighted."

The poor girl who had been robbed sat on the sands swaying backing and
forth, wringing her hands, and crying that she had lost everything.

"Well, my poor friend, that is about the case with the most of us. We
may be thankful that we have our lives. Here is my coat," for her
shoulders and neck were bare; "and if you will come down to the lake
this lady," pointing to Christine, "will bathe the place where the
brute struck you."

"Shall I not give up my shawl to some of these poor creatures?" asked
Christine.

"No, Miss Ludolph, I do not know how long we may be kept here; but I
fear we shall suffer as much from cold as from heat, and your life
might depend upon keeping warm."

"I will do whatever you bid me," she said, looking gratefully at him.

"That is the way to feel and act toward God," he said, gently.

But with sudden impetuosity she answered: "I cannot see what He has
just permitted to happen before my eyes. Right has not triumphed, but
the foulest wrong."

"You do not see the end, Miss Ludolph."

"But I must judge from what I see."

After she had bathed the poor girl's face, comforted and reassured
her, Dennis took up the conversation again and found Christine eager
to listen. Pausing every few moments to throw water over his companion,
he said: "Faith is beyond reason, beyond knowledge, though not contrary
to them. You are judging as we do not judge about the commonest
affairs--from a few isolated, mysterious facts, instead of carefully
looking the subject all over. You pass by what is plain and well
understood to what is obscure, and from that point seek to understand
Christianity. Every science has its obscure points and mysteries, but
who begins with those to learn the science? Can you ignore the fact
that millions of highly intelligent people, with every motive to know
the truth, have satisfied themselves as to the reality of our faith?
Our Bible system of truth may contain much that is obscure, even as
the starry vault has distances that no eye or telescope can penetrate,
and as this little earth has mysteries that science cannot solve, but
there is enough known and understood to satisfy us perfectly. Let me
assure you, Miss Ludolph, that Christianity rests on broad truths, and
is sustained by arguments that no candid mind can resist after patiently
considering them."

She shook her head, silenced perhaps, but not satisfied.



CHAPTER XLV

"PRAYER IS MIGHTY"--CHRISTINE A CHRISTIAN


The day was now declining, and the fire in that part of the city
opposite them had so spent itself that they were beginning to have a
little respite from immediate danger. The fiery storm of sparks and
cinders was falling mostly to the northward.

Dennis now ventured to sit down almost for the first time, for he was
wearied beyond endurance. The tremendous danger and excitements, and
the consciousness of peril to the one most dear to him, had kept him
alert long after he ought to have had rest, but overtaxed nature now
asserted its rights, and the moment the sharp spur of danger was removed
he was overpowered by sleep.

Christine spoke to him as he sat near, but even to her (a thing he
could not have imagined possible) he returned an incoherent reply.

"My poor friend, you do indeed need rest," said she, in kindest accents.

He heard her voice like a sweet and distant harmony in a dream, swayed
a moment, and would have fallen over in utter unconsciousness on the
sands, had she not glided to his side and caught his head upon her lap.

In the heavy stupor that follows the utmost exhaustion, Dennis slept
hour after hour. The rest of the day was a perfect blank to him. But
Christine, partially covering and shading his face with the edge of
her shawl, bent over him as patient in watching as he had been brave
in her deliverance. It was beautiful to see the features once so cold
and haughty, now sweet with more than womanly tenderness. There upon
that desolate beach, cold, hungry, homeless, shelterless, she was
happier than she had been for months. But she trembled as she thought
of the future; everything was so uncertain. She seemed involved in a
labyrinth of dangers and difficulties from which she could see no
escape. She knew that both store and home had gone, and probably most,
if not all, of her father's fortune. She felt that these losses might
greatly modify his plans, and really hoped that they would lead him
to remain in this country. She felt almost sure that he would not go
back to Germany a poor man, and to remain in America was to give her
a chance of happiness, and happiness now meant life with him over whom
she bent. For a long time she had felt that she could give up all the
world for him, but now existence would scarcely be endurable without
him. In proportion to the slowness with which her love had been kindled
was its intensity--the steady, concentrated passion of a strong,
resolute nature, for the first time fully aroused. All indecision
passed from her mind, and she was ready to respond whenever he should
speak; but woman's silence sealed her lips, and more than maiden
delicacy masked her heart. While she bent over him with an expression
that, had he opened his eyes, might have caused him to imagine for a
moment that his sleep had been death, and he had wakened in heaven,
yet he must needs awake to find that the look and manner of earth had
returned. Her sensitive pride made her guarded even in expressing her
gratitude, and she purposed to slip his head off upon her shawl whenever
he showed signs of awakening, so that he might believe that the earth
only had been his resting-place.

But now in his unconsciousness, and unnoted by all around, indeed more
completely isolated by the universal misery and apathy about her than
she could have been in her own home, with a delicious sense of security,
she bent her eyes upon him, and toyed daintily with the curling locks
on his brow. Whatever the future might be, nothing should rob her of
the strange, unexpected happiness of this opportunity to be near him,
purchased at such cost.

As she sat there and saw the fire rush and roar away to the northward,
and the sun decline over the ruins of her earthly fortune, she thought
more deeply and earnestly of life than ever before. The long, heavy
sleep induced by the opiate had now taken away all sense of drowsiness,
and never had her mind been clearer. In the light of the terrible
conflagration many things stood out with a distinctness that impressed
her as nothing had ever done before. Wealth and rank had shrivelled
to their true proportions, and she said, half aloud:--

"That which can vanish in a night in flame and smoke cannot belong to
us, is not a part of us. All that has come out of the crucible of this
fire is my character, myself. It is the same with Mr. Fleet; but
comparing his character with mine, how much richer he is! What if there
is a future life, and we enter into it with no other possession than
our character? and that which is called soul or spirit is driven forth
from earth and the body as we have just been from our wealth and homes?
I can no longer coolly and contemptuously ignore as superstition what
he believes. He is not superstitious, but calm, fearless, and seemingly
assured of something that as yet I cannot understand. One would think
that there must be reality in his belief, for it sustains him and
others in the greatest of trials. The hymn he sang was like a magnet
introduced among steel filings mingled with this sand. The mere earth
cannot move, but the steel is instinct with life. So, while many of
us could not respond, others seemed inspired at the name of Jesus with
new hope and courage, and cried to the Nazarene as if He could hear
them. Why don't people cry for help to other good men who lived in the
dim past, and whose lives and deeds are half myth and half truth? why
to this one man only? for educated Catholics no longer pray to the
saints."

Then her thoughts reverted to Mr. Ludolph.

"Poor father!" said she; "how will he endure these changes? We have
not felt and acted toward each other as we ought. He is now probably
anxious beyond measure, fearing that I perished in my sleep, and so
I should have done, had it not been for this more than friend that I
have so wronged. Oh, that I could make amends! I wonder--oh, I wonder
if he has any spark of love left for me? He seems kind, even tender,
but he is so to every one--he saved Miss Brown--"

But here a most violent interruption took place. Christine, in the
complete absorption of her thoughts, had not noticed that a group of
rough men and women near by, who had been drinking all day, had now
become intoxicated and violent. They were pushing and staggering,
howling and fighting, in reckless disregard of the comfort of others,
and before she knew it she was in the midst of a drunken brawl. One
rough fellow struck against her, and another trod on Dennis, who started
up with a cry of pain. In a moment he comprehended the situation, and,
snatching up Christine and the shawl, he pushed his way out of the
melee with his right arm, the wretches striking at him and one another
aimlessly in their fury; while both men and women used language that
was worse than their blows. After a brief struggle, Dennis and Christine
extricated themselves, and made their way northward up the beach till
they found a place where the people seemed quiet.

Dennis's sudden awakening had revealed to him that his head had been
pillowed, and it seemed such a kind and thoughtful act on Christine's
part that he could scarcely believe it; at the same time he was full
of shame and self-reproach that by his sleep he had left her unguarded,
and he said: "Miss Ludolph, I hope you will pardon you recreant knight,
who slept while you were in danger; but really I could not help it."

"It is I who must ask pardon," replied Christine, warmly. "After your
superhuman exertions, your very life depended on rest. But I made a
wretched watcher--indeed I have lost confidence in myself every way.
To tell the truth, Mr. Fleet, I was lost in thought, and with your
permission I would like to ask you further about two things you said
this morning. You asserted that you knew God loved you, and that
Christianity was sustained by arguments that no candid mind could
resist. What are those arguments? and how can you know such a comforting
thing as the love of God?"

His eyes lighted up in his intense delight that she should again
voluntarily recur to this subject, and he hoped that God was leading
her to a knowledge of Him, and that he, in answer to his own and his
mother's prayers, might be partially instrumental in bringing the
light. Therefore he said, earnestly: "Miss Ludolph, this is scarcely
the time and place to go over the evidences of Christianity. When in
happy security I hope you may do this at your leisure, and am sure you
will be convinced, for I believe that you honestly wish the truth. But
there is no need that you should wait and look forward into the
uncertain future for this priceless knowledge. The father will not
keep his child waiting who tries to find him. God is not far from any
one of us. When our Lord was on earth, He never repulsed those who
sought Him in sincerity, and He is the true manifestation of God.

"Moreover," he continued, reverently, "God is now on earth as truly
as when Christ walked the waves of Galilee, or stood with the
life-giving word upon His lips at the grave of His friend Lazarus. The
mighty Spirit of God now dwells among men to persuade, help, and lead
them into all truth, and I believe He is guiding you. This Divine
Spirit can act as directly on your mind as did Christ's healing hand
when He touched blind eyes and they saw, and palsied bodies and they
sprung into joyous activity."

Under his eager, earnest words, Christine's eyes also lighted up with
hope, but after a moment her face became very sad, and she said,
wearily, "Mystery! mystery! you are speaking a language that I do not
understand."

"Can you not understand this: 'For God so loved the world, that He
gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not
perish, but have everlasting life'? and that the Bible tells us that
His Son did, in very truth, die that we might live?"

"Yes, yes, I know that the Bible seems to teach all that, but there
must be some mistake about it. Why should an all-powerful God take
such a costly, indirect way of accomplishing His purpose when a word
would suffice?"

"We will not discuss God's reasons; I think they are beyond us. But
imagining the Bible story to be true, even though you do not believe
it, is not the love of God revealed to us through His son, Jesus
Christ?"

"Yes, it is the very extravagance of disinterested love, So much so
that my reason revolts at it. It is contrary to all my ideas of Deity
and power."

"Pardon me, Miss Ludolph, for saying it, but I think your ideas of
Deity are borrowed more from mythology and human greatness than from
the Bible. Let your reason stand aside a moment; this is not contrary
to it, but beyond it. Imagining the Bible story true, can you not wish
it true? If the man who died on Calvary out of love for you I and for
us all is also God, would you fear to trust yourself to Him? Could
you distrust One who loved you well enough to die for you?"

"No! no, indeed! if I only could believe it, no! But how can I ever
be sure it is true? I am sure of nothing. I am not sure there is a
God. I am not sure the Bible is more than human in its character. I
feel as if my feet stood out upon those shifting waves, and as if there
were nothing certain or stable."

"But in part you know the truth, Miss Ludolph, though you do not believe
it, and I believe that the God of whom we have spoken _can directly
reveal Himself to you_ and make His truth as real to you as it is to
me."

"Mr. Fleet," cried Christine, "if I could believe as you do, I should
be the happiest of the happy, for I should feel that, however much I
suffered in this brief life, in the existence beyond I should be more
than compensated;" and covering her tearful face with her hands she
moaned, as if it were wrung from her, "I have suffered so much, and
there seemed no remedy!"

Dennis's feelings were also deeply touched, and the dew of sympathy
gathered in his own eyes.  In the gentlest accents be said, "Oh, that
you could trust that merciful, mighty One who invites all the heavy
laden to come to Him for rest!"

She looked up and saw his sympathy, and was greatly moved. In faltering
tones she said: "You feel for me, Mr. Fleet. You do not condemn me in
my blindness and unbelief. I cannot trust Him, because I am not sure
He exists. If there was such a God I would gladly devote my whole being
to Him; but I trust _you_, and will do anything you say."

"Will you kneel on these sands with me in prayer to Him?" he asked,
earnestly.

She hesitated, trembled, but at last said, "Yes."

He took her hand as if they were brother and sister, and they kneeled
together on the desolate beach. The glow of sunset was lost in the
redder glow of the fire that smouldered all over the ruins, and still
raged in the northwest, and the smoke and gathering gloom involved
them in obscurity.

Though the weary, apathetic fugitives regarded them not, we believe
that angelic forms gathered round, and that the heart of the Divine
Father yearned toward His children.

When they rose, after a simple prayer from Dennis, in which he pleaded
almost as a child might with an earthly father, Christine trembled
like a leaf, and was very pale, but her face grew tearless, quiet, and
very sad. Dennis still held her hand in the warm, strong grasp of
sympathy. Gently she withdrew it, and said, in a low, despairing tone:
"It is all in vain. There is no answer. Your voice has been lost in
the winds and waves."

"Wait the King's time," said he, reverently.

"You addressed him as Father. Would a good father keep his child
waiting?"

"Yes, sometimes He does; He is also King."

After a moment she turned to him the saddest face he ever looked upon,
and said, gently, again giving him her hand, "Mr. Fleet, you have done
your best for me, and I thank you all the same."

He was obliged to turn away to hide his feelings. Silently they again
sat down on the beach together. Weariness and something like despair
began to tell on Christine, and Dennis trembled when he thought of the
long night of exposure before her. He bent his face into his hands and
prayed as he had never prayed before. She looked at him wistfully, and
knew he was pleading for her; but she now believed it was all in vain.
The feeling grew upon her that belief or unbelief was a matter of
education and temperament, and that the feelings of which Dennis spoke
were but the deceptive emotions of our agitated hearts. To that degree
that the Divine love seemed visionary and hopeless, she longed for him
to speak of his own, if in truth it still existed, that she could
understand and believe in. If during what remained of life she could
only drink the sweetness of that, she felt it was the best she could
hope for--and then the blank of nothingness.

But he prayed on, and with something of his mother's faith seemed at
last, as it were, in the personal presence of Christ. With an
importunity that would not be denied, he entreated for her who despaired
at his side.

At last, putting her hand lightly on his arm, she said: "Mr. Fleet,
waste no more time on me. From the groans I hear, some poor woman is
sick or hurt. Perhaps you can do some real good by seeing to her needs."

He rose quietly, feeling that in some way God would answer, and that
he must patiently wait.

Going up the beach a short distance he found a German woman lying just
on the edge of the water. In answer to his questions, he learned from
her broken English that she was sick and in pain. A sudden thought
struck him. In seeking to help another, might not Christine find help
herself, and in the performance of a good deed, might not the Author
of all good reveal Himself? Returning to her, he said: "Miss Ludolph,
the poor woman you have heard is sick and alone. She is German, and
you can speak to her and comfort her as only a woman can."

Christine went at once, though with little confidence in her powers.
Indeed it was, perhaps, the first visit of charity and mercy she had
ever made. But she would have done anything he asked, and determined
to do her best. She helped the poor creature further up from the water,
and then, taking her hands, spoke to her soothingly and gently in her
native tongue.

"Heaven and all the angels bless your sweet face for taking pity on
a poor lone body, and so they will too," is the free rendering of her
grateful German.

"Would you please say a little prayer for a lone, sick body?" she
asked, after a little while.

Christine hesitated a moment, and then thought: "Why not? if it will
be of any comfort to the poor thing. It can do neither of us harm."

Dennis saw her kneel at the woman's side, lift her white face to heaven,
and her lips move. Her attitude was unmistakably that of prayer. He
could scarcely believe his eyes.

Her petition was brief and characteristic: "O God--if there is a
God--help this poor creature!"

Then Dennis saw her start up and glance around in a strange, bewildered
manner. Suddenly she clasped her hands and looked up with an ecstatic,
thrilling cry: "There is! there is! God lives and loves me, I feel,
I know, and therefore I may hope and live." Turning to the still raging
flames, she exclaimed: "Burn on with your fiery billows, I do not fear
you now! I am safe, safe forever! Oh, how can I ever love and praise
Thee enough!"

Then, springing to Dennis's side, she took both his hands in hers, and
said: "Mr. Fleet, you have saved my life again and again, and I am,
oh, how grateful! but in leading me to this knowledge you have made
me your debtor for evermore. God does live, and I believe now He loves
even me."

As the glare of the fire fell on her face, he was awed and speechless
at its expression. From its ecstatic joy and purity it seemed that the
light of heaven, instead of her burning home, was illumining it.

At last he said, brokenly, "Thank God! thank God! my many, many prayers
are answered!"

The look of love and gratitude she gave him will only find its
counterpart in heaven, when the saved beam upon those who led them to
the Saviour. The whole of her strong womanly soul, thoroughly aroused,
was in her face, and it shone like that of an angel.

To Dennis, with the force of fulfilled prophecy, recurred his mother's
words, and unconsciously he spoke them aloud: "PRAYER is MIGHTY."



CHAPTER XLVI

CHRISTINE'S GRAVE


After a moment Christine returned to her charge and said, gently, "I
think I can take better care of you now."

The poor woman looked at her in a bewildered way, half fearing she had
lost her senses. But there was that in Christine's tone and manner now
that went like sunlight and warmth to the heart, and in broadest German
the grateful creature was soon blessing her again and again, and
Christine felt that she was blessed beyond even her wildest dreams.

Dennis now felt that she must have food and rest. She appeared, in the
ghostly light of the distant flames, so pale and spirit-like, that he
almost feared she would slip away to heaven at once, and he began
looking for some one stronger, older, and more suitable, to take her
place. At a little distance further north he at last found a stout
German woman sitting with her two children on a large feather bed, the
sole relic of her household goods. Dennis acquainted her with the case,
and she soon took the matter out of his and Christine's hands in a
very satisfactory way.

To the south and west opportunity of escape was utterly cut off;
eastward were the waters of the lake, so that their only chance was
to push northward. After making their way slowly for a short distance
among the thickly scattered groups and the varied articles that had
been dragged to the shore for safety, Dennis thought he heard a familiar
voice.

"Dr. Arten!" he cried.

"Hallo! who wants me?" answered the good old physician, bustling up
in rather incongruous costume, consisting of a dress coat, white vest,
red flannel drawers, and a very soiled pair of slippers.

"Oh, doctor! the very sight of you inspires hope and courage."

"Surely a young fellow like you can be in no want of those articles?"

"If he is lacking," cried Christine, "it must be for the reason that
he has given hope and courage to every one he has met, and so has
robbed himself."

"Heigho!" exclaimed the doctor, "you here?"

"Yes, thanks to the heroism of Mr. Fleet."

"Fleet, is that all you have saved from the fire?" asked the doctor,
with a humorous twinkle, pointing to Christine.

"I am well satisfied," said Dennis, quietly, but with rising color.

"I should have perished, had not Mr. Fleet come to my rescue," continued
Christine, warmly, glad of an opportunity to express a little of her
gratitude.

The doctor turned his genial, humorous eye on her and said: "Don't be
too grateful, Miss Ludolph; he is a young man, and only did his duty.
Now if I had been so fortunate you might have been as grateful as you
pleased."

It was Christine's turn to grow rather rosier than even the red fire
warranted, but she said, "You would have your joke, doctor, if the
world were burning up."

"Yes, and after it burned up," he replied. "What do you think of that,
Miss Ludolph, with your German scepticism?"

Tears came in Christine's eyes, and she said, in a low tone, "I am
glad to say that I have lost my German scepticism in the fire also."

"What!" cried the doctor, seizing both her hands in his hearty way.
"Will you accept of our Christian superstition?"

"I think I have accepted your glorious Christian truth, and the thought
makes me very happy."

"Well, now I can almost say, Praise God for the fire, though old Dr.
Arten must commence again where the youngsters are who kick up their
heels in their office all day."

With professional instinct he slipped his finger on Christine's pulse,
then rummaged in his pocket and soon drew out some powders, and in his
brusque way made her take one.

"Oh, how bitter!" she exclaimed.

"That is the way the ladies treat me," began the merry bachelor: "not
an ounce of gratitude when I save their lives. But let a young fellow
like Fleet come along and get them out of danger by mere brute strength,
instead of my delicate, skilful way, and language breaks down with their
thanks. Very well, I shall have compensation--I shall present
my bill before long. And now, young man, since you have set out to
rescue my little friend here, you had better carry the matter through,
for several reasons which I need not urge. Your best chance is to make
your way northward, and then continue around the west, where you can
find food and shelter;" and with a hearty grasp of the hand, the brave,
genial old man wished them "God speed!"

Dennis told him of the poor German woman, and then pushed on in the
direction indicated. But Christine was growing weak and exhausted. At
last they reached the Catholic cemetery. It was crowded with fugitives
and the fire to the northwest still cut off all escape, even if
Christine's strength had permitted further exertion. It was now
approaching midnight, and she said, wearily: "Mr. Fleet, I am very
sorry, but I fear I cannot take another step. The powder Dr. Arten
gave me strengthened me for a time, but its effect is passing away,
and I feel almost paralyzed with fatigue. I am not afraid to stay here,
or indeed anywhere now."

"It seems a very hard necessity that you should have to remain in such
a place, Miss Ludolph, but I see no help for it. We are certainly as
well off as thousands of others, and so I suppose ought not to
complain."

"I feel as if I could never complain again, Mr. Fleet. I only hope my
father is as safe and as well as we are. I cannot tell you how my heart
goes out toward him now that I see everything in a different light.
I have not been a true daughter, and I do long to make amends. He
surely has escaped, don't you think?"

"Mr. Ludolph was possessed of unusual sagacity and prudence," said
Dennis, evasively. "What any man could do, he could. And now,
Miss Ludolph, I will try to find you a resting-place. There are such
crowds here that I think we had better go nearer that side, where early
in the evening the fire drove people away."

The cemetery had not been used of late years, and many of the bodies
had been removed. This caused excavations here and there, and one of
these from which the gathered leaves and grass had been burned, Dennis
thought might answer for Christine's couch, as in the hollow of this
vacant and nearly filled grave she would be quite sheltered from the
wind, and the sand was still warm from the effects of the fire. To his
surprise she made no objection.

"I am so weary that I can rest anywhere," she said, "and a grave is
not to me what it was once."

He arranged her shawl so that it might be mattress, pillow, and
covering, and wrapped her up.

"And how will you endure the long, cold hours, my friend?" she asked,
looking up most sympathetically.

"Thanks to your kindness, I had such a good sleep this afternoon that
I feel strong and rested," he replied, with a smile.

"I fear you say so to put my mind at rest;" but even as she spoke her
eyes closed and she went to sleep like a tired and trusting child. As
with Dennis a few hours before, the limit of nature's endurance had
been reached, and the wealthy, high-born Miss Ludolph, who on Sabbath
night had slept in the midst of artistic elegance and luxury, now, on
Monday night, rested in a vacant grave under the open and
storm-gathering sky. Soon--to be accurate, at two o'clock on the morning
of Tuesday--rain began to fall. But, with all the discomfort it brought,
never had rain been more welcome.

Christine shivered in her sleep, and Dennis looked around vainly for
some additional covering. The thronging fugitives were all in a similar
plight, and their only course was simply to endure till some path of
escape opened.

The night was indeed a long one to him. At first excitement and
happiness kept him awake and unconscious of time and discomfort. But
he soon felt how weary and hungry he was, for he had eaten nothing
since his slight supper on Sabbath evening. The heat of the fire
perceptibly lessened as the rain began falling, and without his coat
Dennis was soon chilled to the bone. On every side he heard moans of
discomfort, and he knew that he had far more reason to endure patiently
than many near him. He tried to keep himself warm by walking around,
but at last he grew too weary for that, and sat, a patient, cowering
watcher, at the head of Christine's weird couch, listening sadly at
times to the pitiful crying of little children and the sighs and groans
of older sufferers.

At last the light of welcome day streaked the eastern horizon, and
Christine opened her eyes in a bewildered way, but, on seeing him
swaying backward and forward with half-closed eyes, sprang up and said,
"And have you sat and watched there all the long night?"

"I hope you feel rested and better, Miss Ludolph," he replied, startled
from drowsiness by her voice.

"It has been raining, too. I fear you are wet through. Oh, how much
you must have suffered on my account!"

"I imagine you are as wet as I am, Miss Ludolph. This has been a very
democratic experience for you. We are all about alike in this strange
camping-ground."

"No; your kindness made me quite comfortable. Indeed, I never slept
better. And you, without any coat or shelter, have watched patiently
hour after hour."

"Well, you did as much for me yesterday afternoon, so we are quits."

"I think there is a great difference," she said. "And remember what
a watcher I made; I let those drunken creatures run over you."

"I don't see how you could have helped it," said he, laughing. "That
you should have cared for me as you did was a favor that I never
expected," he added, blushing.

She blushed too, but made no reply; at the same time she was vexed
with herself that she did not. Dennis, with a lover's blindness,
misunderstood her silence, and thought that, as a friend, she was more
grateful than he could wish, but he must speak in no other character.

Then he remembered that it would be dishonorable to urge his suit under
the circumstances; it would be a source of inexpressible pain to her,
with her strong sense of obligation, to put aside expressions of his
deeper regard, and he resolved to avoid if possible any manifestations
of his feelings. While she was dependent upon him he would act the
part of a brother toward her, and if his human love could never find
its consummation, he would bear his loss as patiently as possible. But
in spite of himself a tinge of sadness and restraint came into his
manner, and Christine sighed to herself, "If _he_ only knew, and _I_
only knew, just the truth, how much happier we might be!" There was a
general movement now in the strangely assorted multitude. The fire had
swept everything away so completely on the north side that there were
not hot blazing ruins to prevent crossing. Accordingly men came pouring
over, looking for their families. On every side were cries of joy on
recognition of those whom fear and terrible forebodings had buried under
the blackened remains of once happy homes. But mingled with exclamations
of joy were sobs and wails of anguish, as some now realized in the
lapsing hours that absent members of the household were lost.

Christine looked in vain for her father; at last Dennis said: "Miss
Ludolph, do you feel equal to the effort of crossing to the west side?
You must be faint with hunger, and there only can we hope for help."

"Oh, yes! let us go at once, for your sake as well as mine;" for she
saw that his long fasting and great fatigue had made him very haggard.

They urged their way across the burned district as fast as their
exhausted state would permit, carefully avoiding burning brands that
still lay in the street.

"I hope you will have patience with me in my slow progress," said
Christine, "for I feel as I imagine Rip Van Winkle must have done,
after his twenty years' nap."

"I think you have borne up heroically, Miss Ludolph," said Dennis,
warmly.

"Oh, no! I am not in the least heroic, but I confess that I am very
hungry.  I never knew what hunger was before. Well, I can now appreciate
what must often be the condition of the poor, and hope not to be so
forgetful of them hereafter."

"I am glad to hear you say that you are hungry, Miss Ludolph, for it
proves that with care you will rally after this dreadful exposure, and
be your former self."

"Ah! Mr. Fleet, I hope I shall never be my old self again.  I shudder
when I think what I was when you awakened me that dreadful night."

"But I have feared," said he, ever avoiding any reference to his own
services, "that, though you might escape the fire, the exposure would
be greater than you could endure. I trembled for you last night when
it began to rain, but could find no additional covering."

"No brother could be kinder or more thoughtful of me," she said, turning
upon him a glad, grateful face.

"That is it," thought Dennis.  "She hints to me what must be our
relationship.  She is the Baroness Ludolph, and is pledged to a future
that I cannot share."

But as he saw her gratitude, he resolved all the more resolutely not
to put it to the hard test of refusing his love. A little later he
unconsciously sighed wearily, and she looked at him wistfully.

"Oh, that I _knew_ if he felt toward me as he once did!" she said to
herself.

They now reached the unscathed streets of the west side, which were
already thronged with fugitives as hungry and gaunt as themselves.
Mingling with this great strange tide of weak, begrimed, hollow-eyed
humanity, they at last reached Dr. Goodwin's beautiful church. Here
already had begun the noble charity dispensed from that place during
the days of want and suffering that followed.



CHAPTER XLVII

SUSIE WINTHROP


Waiting with multitudes of others, Christine and Dennis at last received
an army biscuit (hardtack in the soldier's vernacular) and a tin-cup
of what resembled coffee. To him it was very touching to see how eagerly
she received this coarse fare, proving that she was indeed almost
famished. Too weak to stand, they sat down near the door on the
sidewalk. A kind lady presently came and said, "If you have no place to
go you will find it more comfortable in the church."

They gladly availed themselves of her permission, as the thronged
street was anything but pleasant.

"Mr. Fleet," said Christine, "I am now going to take care of you in
return for your care last night," and she led him up to a secluded
part of the church by the organ, arranged some cushions on a seat, and
then continued: "As I have obeyed you, so you must now be equally
docile. Don't you dare move from that place till I call you;" and she
left him.

He was indeed wearied beyond expression, and most grateful for a chance
to rest. This refuge and the way it was secured seemed almost a heavenly
experience, and he thought with deepest longing, "If we could always
take care of each other, I should be perhaps too well satisfied with
this earthly life."

When after a little time Christine returned he was sleeping as heavily
as he had done before upon the beach, but the smile his last thought
occasioned still rested on his face.

For some little time she also sat near and rested, and her eyes sought
his face as if a story were written there that she never could finish.
Then she went to make inquiries after her father. But no one to whom
she spoke knew anything about him.

Bread and other provisions were constantly arriving, but not fast
enough to meet the needs of famishing thousands. Though not feeling
very strong she offered her services, and was soon busily engaged. All
present were strangers to her, but, when they learned from the inquiries
for her father that she was Miss Ludolph, she was treated with deference
and sympathy. But she assumed nothing, and as her strength permitted,
during the day, she was ready for any task, even the humblest. She
handed food around among the hungry, eager applicants, with such a
sweet and pitying face that she heard many a murmured blessing. Her
efforts were all the more appreciated as all saw that she too had
passed through the fire and had suffered deeply. At last a kind,
motherly lady said: "My dear, you look ready to drop. Here, take this,"
and she poured out a glass of wine and gave her a sandwich; "now, go
and find some quiet nook and rest. It's your duty."

"I have a friend who has suffered almost everything in saving me. He
is asleep now, but he has had scarcely anything to eat for nearly three
days, and I know he will be very hungry when he wakes."

"Nothing to eat for three days! Why, you must take him a whole loaf,
and this, and this," cried the good lady, about to provision Dennis
for a month.

"Oh, no," said Christine, with a smile, "so much would not be good for
him. If you will give me three or four sandwiches, and let me come for
some coffee when he wakes, it will be sufficient;" and she carried
what now seemed treasures to where Dennis was sleeping, and sat down
with a happy look in her face.

The day had been full of sweet, trustful thoughts. She was conscious
of a presence within her heart and all around that she knew was Divine,
and in spite of her anxiety about her father and the uncertainty of
the future, she had a rest and contentment of mind that she had never
experienced before. Then she felt such a genuine sympathy for the
sufferers about her, and found them so grateful when she spoke to them
gently and kindly, that she wondered she had never before discovered
the joy of ministering to others. She was entering a new world, and,
though there might be suffering in it, the antidote was ever near, and
the pleasures promised to grow richer, fuller, more satisfying, till
they developed into the perfect happiness of heaven. But every Christian
joy that was like a sweet surprise--every thrilling hope that pointed
to endless progress in all that is best and noblest in life, instead
of the sudden blank and nothingness that threatened but yesterday--and,
above all, the animating consciousness of the Divine love which kept
her murmuring, "My Saviour, my good, kind Heavenly Father," all reminded
her of him who had been instrumental in bringing about the wondrous
change. Often during the day she would go and look at him, and could
Dennis only have opened his eyes at such a moment, and caught her
expression, no words would have been needed to assure him of his
happiness.

The low afternoon sun shone in gold and crimson on his brow and face
through the stained windows before he gave signs of waking, and then
she hurried away to get the coffee hot from the urn.

She had hardly gone before he arose greatly refreshed and strengthened,
but so famished that a roast ox would have seemed but a comfortable
meal. His eye at once caught the sandwiches placed temptingly near.

"That is Miss Ludolph's work," he said; "I wonder if she has saved any
for herself." He was about to go and geek her when she met him with
the coffee.

"Go back," she said; "how dare you disobey orders?"

"I was coming to find you."

"Well, that is the best excuse you could have made, but I am here; so
sit down and drink this coffee and devour these sandwiches."

"Not unless you share them with me."

"Insubordinate! See here," and she took out her more dainty provision
from behind a seat and sat down opposite, in such a pretty,
companionable way that he in his admiration and pleasure forgot his
sandwiches.

"What is the matter?" she asked. "You are to eat the sandwiches, not
me."

"A very proper hint, Miss Ludolph; one might well be inclined to make
the mistake."

"Now that is a compliment worthy of the king of the Cannibal Islands."

"Miss Ludolph," said Dennis, looking at her earnestly, "you do indeed
seem happy."

A ray of light slanting through a yellow diamond of glass fell with
a sudden glory upon her face, and in a tone of almost ecstasy she said:
"Oh, I am so glad and grateful, when I realize what might have been,
and what is! It seems that I have lost so little in this fire in
comparison with what I have gained. And but for you I might have lost
everything. How rich this first day of life, real, true life, has been!
My Heavenly Father has been so kind to me that I cannot express it.
And then to think how I have wronged Him all these years!"

"You have indeed learned the secret of true eternal happiness, Miss
Ludolph."

"I believe it--I feel sure of it. All trouble, all pain will one day
pass away forever; and sometimes I feel as if I must sing for joy. I
do so long to see my father and tell him. I fear he won't believe it
at first, but I can pray as you did, and it seems as if my Saviour
would not deny me anything. And now, Mr. Fleet, when you have finished
your lunch, I am going to ask one more favor, and then will dub you
truest knight that ever served defenceless woman. You will find my
father for me, for I believe you can do anything."

Even in the shadow where he sat she caught the pained expression of
his face.

She started up and grasped his arm.

"You know something," she said; then added: "Do not be afraid to find
my father now. When he knows what services you have rendered me, all
estrangement, if any existed, will pass away."

But he averted his face, and she saw tears gathering in his eyes.

"Mr. Fleet," she gasped, "do you know anything I do not?"

He could hide the truth no longer. Indeed it was time she should learn
it. Turning and taking her trembling hand, he looked at her so sadly
and kindly that she at once knew her father was dead.

"Oh, my father!" she cried, in a tone of anguish that he could never
forget, "you will never, never know. All day I have been longing to
prove to you the truth of Christianity by my loving, patient tenderness,
but you have died, and will never know," she moaned, shudderingly.

He still held her hand--indeed she clung to his as to something that
might help sustain her in the dark, bitter hour.

"Poor, poor father!" she cried; "I never treated him as I ought, and
now he will never know the wealth of love I was hoping to lavish on
him." Then, looking at Dennis almost reproachfully, she said: "Could
you not save him? You saved so many others."

"Indeed I could not, Miss Ludolph; I tried, and nearly lost my life
in the effort. The great hotel behind the store fell and crushed all
in a moment."

She shuddered, but at last whispered, "Why have you kept this so long
from me?"

"How could I tell you when the blow would have been death? Even now
you can scarcely bear it."

"My little beginning of faith is sorely tried. Heavenly Spirit," she
cried, "guide me through this darkness, and let not doubt and unbelief
cloud my mind again."

"Such prayer will be answered," said Dennis, in a deep, low tone.

They sat in the twilight in silence. He still held her hand, and she
was sobbing more gently and quietly. Suddenly she asked, "Is it wrong
thus to grieve over the breaking of an earthly tie?"

"No, not if you will say as did your Lord in His agony, 'Oh, my Father,
Thy will be done.'"

"I will try," she said, softly, "but it is hard."

"He is a merciful and faithful High Priest. For in that He Himself
hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succor them that are
tempted."

"Do you know that I think my change in feeling makes me grieve all the
more deeply? Until to-day I never loved my father as I ought. It is
the curse of unbelief to deaden everything good in the heart. Oh, I
do feel such a great, unspeakable pity for him!"

"Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that
fear Him."

"Is that in the Bible?" she asked.

"Yes."

"It is very sweet. He indeed must be my refuge now, for I am alone in
the world."

"He has said, 'I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.' I have passed
through this sorrow so recently myself that I can sympathize with you
as a fellow-sufferer."

"True, true, you have," she answered. "Is that the reason that Christ
suffered with us--that we might know He sympathized with us?"

"Yes."

"How unspeakably comforting is such sympathy, both human and divine!
Tell me about your mother."

"I fear I cannot without being unmanned. She was one of Heaven's
favorites, and I owe everything to her. I can tell you one thing,
though, she prayed for you continually--even with her dying lips, when
my faith had broken down."

This touched Christine very deeply. At last she said, "I shall see her
some day."

"I wish you had seen her," he continued very sadly, looking as if at
a scene far away.

"You cannot wish it more than I. Indeed I would have called on her,
had it not been for an unfortunate accident."

He looked at her with some surprise, as if not understanding her remark,
but said, "She greatly wished to see you before she died."

"Oh, I wish I had known it!"

"Did you not know it?" he asked, in a startled manner.

"No, but I felt grateful to her, for I understood that she offered to
take care of me in case I had the smallpox. I wanted to visit her very
much, and at last thought I would venture to do so, but just then I
sprained my ankle. I sent my maid to inquire, but fear she didn't do
my errand very well," added Christine, looking down.

"She never came, Miss Ludolph." Then he continued, eagerly: "I fear
I have done you a great wrong. A little time before my mother died,
she wrote you a line saying that she was dying and would like to see
you. I did not know you could not come--I thought you would not."

Crimson with shame and humiliation, Christine buried her burning cheeks
in her hands and murmured, "I never received it."

"And did you send the exquisite flowers and fruit?" he asked. "Ah, I
see that you did. I am so glad--so very glad that I was mistaken! I
sincerely ask your pardon for my unjust thoughts."

"It is I who should ask pardon, and for a long time I have earnestly
wished that I might find opportunity to do so. My conduct has been
simply monstrous, but of late it has seemed worse than the reality.
Everything has been against me. If you only knew--but--" (and her head
bowed lower). Then she added, hastily, "My maid has been false, and
I must have appeared more heartless than ever." But, with biter shame
and sorrow, she remembered who must have been the inspirer of the
treachery, and, though she never spoke of it again, she feared that
Dennis suspected it also. It was one of those painful things that must
be buried, even as the grave closes over the frail, perishing body.

Let those who are tempted to a wicked, dishonorable deed remember that,
even after they are gone, the knowledge of it may come to those who
loved them, like an incurable wound.

Dennis's resolution not to speak till Christine should be no longer
dependent on him was fast melting away, as he learned that she had not
been so callous and forgetful as she had seemed. But before he could
add another word, a wild, sweet, mournful voice was heard singing:

                  "O fiery storm, wilt never cease?
                     Thy burning hail falls on my heart;
                   Bury me deep, that I in peace
                     May rest where death no more can part."

In awed, startled tones they both exclaimed, "SUSIE WINTHROP!"



CHAPTER XLVIII

DOCTOR ARTEN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING


Hastening down into the body of the church, Dennis and Christine found
Mrs. Leonard lying on some cushions in a pew. She was scantily clad,
her sweet face scorched and blackened, and her beautiful hair almost
crisped away.

Her husband was bending over her in an agony of mingled grief and joy.
She had just been brought in from wandering aimlessly and alone quite
out upon the prairie, singing in a low, plaintive way to herself words
suggested by the sudden disaster that had temporarily robbed her of
husband, of reason, and almost of life.

Dennis afterward learned from Professor Leonard that when first aroused
they had escaped from the hotel, but, not realizing the danger, he had
stepped back a moment at her request to get something she valued very
much, and they had become separated.

"And thus at last I find the poor child," he cried, with a look of
agony.

Mrs. Leonard did not know any of them, but continued her low, plaintive
singing.

Dr. Arten, who had found his way to the church as one of the centres,
was soon in attendance, his benevolent face becoming the very embodiment
of pity. The crowd were pushed back, and with other kind ladies
Christine took charge of her poor unconscious friend, and all was done
that skill and tender love could suggest. At last, under the doctor's
opiates, her low, weird singing ceased, and she slept, her husband
holding her hand. The thronging fugitives were kept a little away, and
Dr. Arten slept near, to be within call.

A lady asked Christine to go home with her, but she thanked her and
said, "No, I would rather remain in the church near my friends."

Dennis saw that she was greatly wearied. Taking her hand, he said:
"Miss Ludolph, it is my turn to take care of you again. See, our friends
are preparing a place there for the ladies to sleep. Please go to rest
at once, for you do indeed need it."

"I am very tired, but I know I could not sleep. How strange this life
is! All day, the world, in spite of what has happened, seemed growing
brighter. Now with the night has come the deeper darkness of sorrow.
On every side pain and suffering seem to predominate, and to me there
will ever be so much mystery in events like my father's death and my
friend Susie's experience, that I know it will be hard to maintain a
childlike faith."

"God will help you to trust; you will not be left to struggle alone.
Then remember you are His child, and earthly parents do much that
little children cannot understand."

With a faint smile she answered: "I fear I shall be one of those
troublesome children that are ever asking why. All day it has seemed
so easy to be a Christian, but already I learn that there will be times
when I shall have to cling to my Saviour, instead of being carried
forward in His arms. Indeed, I almost fear that I shall lose Him in
the darkness."

"But He will not lose you," replied Dennis. "Since you are not sleepy,
let me tell you a short Bible story."

"Oh, do, please do, just as if I were a little child."

"It is in the New Testament. Jesus had sent His disciples in a boat
across the sea of Galilee, while He should go up alone on a mountain
to pray. The night came, and with it a storm swept down against the
disciples. The smooth sea was lashed into great foam-crested waves
which broke over their little ship.  They tugged hour after hour at
the oars, but in vain.  The night grew darker, the wind more contrary,
the waves higher and more threatening, their arms wearied, and they
may have feared that they would perish alone and without remedy in the
black midnight. But we read that 'He saw them toiling in rowing,'
though they knew it not.  From the distant mountain side 'He saw
them'--marked every weary stroke of the oar, and every throb of fear.
But at last, when they were most ready to welcome Him, when none could
say, 'We should have rowed through the storm alone,' He came to them
walking safely on the dark waves that threatened them with death, and
said, 'Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.'  Then they gladly
received Him into the ship, and immediately the rough waves were hushed,
and the keel of the boat grated on the beach toward which they had
vainly rowed. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped Him,
saying, 'Of a truth thou art the Son of God.'

"Now it was on the evening of that very night that these same disciples
had engaged in a scene of festivity.  They had stood in the sunset on
the mountain slope, and seen their Lord feed many thousand.  Then all
was peace, safety, and good cheer.  Life changed as quickly for them
as for you, but did not their Divine Master see them as truly in the
stormy night as in the sunlight? Did He leave them to perish?

"He is watching you, Miss Ludolph, for He is ever the same; and before
this stormy night of your sorrow passes away you will hear His voice,
saying, 'Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.'"

"Already I hear it," she said, in a low, glad voice, smiling through
her tears.  "I can, I do trust Him, and the conflicting winds of doubt
and fear are becoming still. Among all these homeless people there
must be many sad, discouraged hearts.  You have helped me so much; can
you not say a word or sing something that will help them?"

Dennis thought a moment, and then, in a sweet, clear voice that
penetrated every part of the large building, sang:

    "Father in Heaven, the night is around us,
     Terror and danger our portion have been;
     We cry unto Thee, oh, save and defend us,
     Comfort the trembling, and pardon our sin.

    "Hearts that are heavy, look onward and upward;
     Though wild was the storm that wrecked your loved homes,
     Faith lifts your sad glances hopefully heavenward,
     To mansions prepared with glory-crowned domes.

    "Hearts that are breaking, whose lov'd ones have vanished,
     Swept down in the seething ocean of fire,
     E'en now they may rest where pain is all banished,
     And join their glad songs with the heavenly choir.

    "Hearts that are groaning with life's weary burden,
     Who fear to go forward, to sorrow a prey;
     Jesus invites you--'Oh, come, heavy laden';
     Leave sin at His feet, bear mercy away."

After the first line there was a breathless hush; but, when he closed,
low sobbings might be heard from many of the women, and in the dim
light not a few tears shone in the eyes of manhood. Dennis's voice was
sympathetic in its character, and he had the power of throwing into
it much feeling.

Christine was weeping quietly, but her tears now were like the warm
spring rain as it falls on the precious seed. At last she said, "You
have done these people much good."

"To you belongs all the credit, for it was at your suggestion I sang."

She shook her head, and then said, "Good-night, my friend, I shall
never forget this day with its mingled experience; but I think, I hope,
I shall never doubt God again;" and she went to her rest.

The light of the next day brought to view many hard realities, and
chief among these was the bread question. Dennis was up with the dawn,
and by eager inquiries sought to comprehend the situation. Some were
gloomy and discouraged, some apathetic, and some determined, courageous,
and hopeful; and to this last class he belonged.

Most thankful that he had come out of the fiery ordeal unscathed, he
resolved to contribute his quota toward a new and better Chicago.
Young, and sanguine in temperament, he already saw the city rise from
its ashes in statelier proportions and richer prosperity. With a thrill
of exultation he heard the report that some Napoleonic business men
had already telegraphed for building material, and were even now
excavating the hot ruins.

Christine had hardly joined him as he stood at the door when a gentleman
entered and asked, "Who here are willing and able to work for fair
wages?"

"I am at your service," said Dennis, stepping forward promptly.

"You are a gentleman, sir," said the speaker, impressed with the fact
by Dennis's bearing, though his hat and coat were gone; "I need laborers
who can handle the pick and shovel."

"I will work for less, then, till I can handle these tools as well as
a laborer. There is no reason why I should eat the bread of charity
a day longer, especially when so many need it more than I."

"I said you were a gentleman; I now say you are a man, and that to me
means a great deal more," said the energetic stranger. "You shall have
two dollars a day with the rest."

He turned to Christine and said, almost proudly, "The supper you have
to-night shall be yours also."

"That is," she replied, with a smile, "I shall live on your charity
instead of that of some one else."

His face grew sad at once, but he answered, as he went away, "I could
not give you charity, Miss Ludolph."

Christine saw that she had pained him, and was much vexed with herself.
But his remark added to the hope and almost belief that she still held
her old place in his heart, and she resolved to make amends in the
evening for her unlucky speech.

With a smile she said to herself: "If he only knew that I would prefer
the coarsest, scantiest fare provided by him to the most costly banquet,
he would not have gone away with that long face. How rich life would
be if I could commence it with him, and we struggle up together! Oh,
Heaven, grant," she sighed, looking earnestly upward, "that through
these wonderful, terrible changes, I may climb the mountain at his
side, as he so graphically portrayed it in his picture!"

Mrs. Leonard still slept, and her husband in an agony of anxiety watched
at her side. At last, a little before midday, she opened her eyes and
said, in her natural tone: "Why, John, I must have greatly overslept.
Where am I?" and then, as her husband fairly sobbed for joy, she started
up and said, hurriedly: "What is the matter? What has happened?"

"Oh, be calm!" whispered Christine to the professor. "Everything depends
on keeping her quiet." Then she bent over her friend, and said: "Do
not be alarmed, Susie; you are now safe and well, and so is your
husband. But you have been ill, and for his sake and your own you must
keep quiet."

She turned inquiringly to her husband, who said, more calmly, "It is
all true, and if you can only be careful we can go back to Boston as
well as ever."

"I will do anything you say, John; but why am I in a church?"

"You were taken sick in the street, and this was the nearest place to
bring you."

"Oh, dear! I have had such strange, dreadful dreams. I am so glad they
were only dreams, and you are here with me;" and she lay quietly holding
her husband's hands and looking contentedly in his face. It was evident
she was herself again, and much better.

Dr. Arten soon after came and said, cheerily, "All right! all right!
will have you out in a day or two as good as new, and then, Miss
Ludolph, you will see how much more grateful she is to the old doctor
than you were."

"You must present your bill," replied Christine, with a smile.

"May I?" retorted the doctor, wiping his lips.

"Oh, I don't know about that," cried Christine; adding, quickly, "when
I welcome you to my own home you may."

"An old maid's hall, I suppose."

"It will be an orphan's home, at least," said Christine, softly and
sadly.

Tears filled the old man's eyes, and putting his arm around her he
drew her to him, saying, as he stroked her drooping head: "Poor child!
poor child! I did not know. But you shall never want a protector while
the old doctor is above ground. As far as possible I will be a father
to you;" and Christine knew she had found a friend as true and strong
as steel, and she buried her face on his shoulder and cried as
trustingly as his own child might have done.

"Oh, Christine!" cried Mrs. Leonard, "I am so sorry for you!"

At the voice of her old friend she at once rallied, and, trying to
smile through her tears, said, "God has been so much better to me than
I deserved that I have only gratitude when I think of myself; but my
poor father--" and again she covered her face and wept.

"Christine, come here," said Mrs. Leonard, softly, and she put her
arms around the weeping girl. "You spoke of God's being good to you.
Have you in truth found and learned to trust Him?"

"Yes," she replied, eagerly, joy and peace coming out in her face like
the sun shining through clouds and rain. Then with bowed head she
whispered low: "The one I wronged on earth led me to the One I wronged
in heaven, and both have forgiven me. Oh, I am so glad, so happy!"

"Then you have seen Mr. Fleet."

"Yes, he saved my life again and again, but in teaching me how to find
my Saviour, he has done far more for me."

"And you will not wrong him any more, will you, Christine? He has loved
you so long and faithfully."

In reply she lifted an eager face to her friend and said, "Do you think
he can love me still after my treatment of him?"

"Give him a chance to tell you," said Mrs. Leonard, with a
half-mischievous smile. "Has he not shown his feelings?"

"He has treated me more as a brother might have done, and yet he is
so very respectful and deferential--I hope--but I am not perfectly
sure--and then he seems under some restraint."

Mrs. Leonard said, musingly: "He knows that you are Baroness Ludolph.
I told him last week, for I thought he ought to know, and the fact of
your approaching departure for Europe has been no secret of late. He
thinks you are pledged to a future in which he cannot share; and in
your grateful, dependent condition he would not cause you the pain of
refusing him. I think that is just where he stands," she concluded,
with a woman's mastery of the science of love, and taking almost as
much interest in her friend's affair as she had felt in her own. To
most ladies this subject has a peculiar fascination, and, having settled
their own matters, they enter with scarcely less zest on the task of
helping others arrange theirs. Mrs. Leonard rallied faster under the
excitement of this new interest than from the doctor's remedies.

After a few moments' thought Christine said, decidedly: "All that
nonsense about the Baroness Ludolph is past forever--burned up in the
fire with many things of more value. I have been fed too long on the
husks of human greatness and ambition to want any more of them. They
never did satisfy me, and in the light and heat of the terrific ordeal
through which I have just passed they shrivelled into utter nothingness.
I want something that I cannot lose in a whiff of smoke and flame, and
I think I have found it. Henceforth I claim no other character than
that of a simple Christian girl." Then bowing her head on her friend's
shoulder she added, in a whisper, "If I could climb to true greatness
by Mr. Fleet's side, as he portrayed it in his picture, it seems to
me heaven would begin at once."

The doctor, who had taken the professor aside, now joined them, and
said: "Mrs. Leonard, you have only to take reasonable care of yourself,
and you will soon recover from this shock and exposure. I wish all my
patients were doing as well."

She replied with a smile, taking her husband's hand: "Since I have
found my old Greek here, with his learned spectacles, I am quite myself,
and I feel as if I were only playing invalid."

"You may have slept in a church before," said the doctor, with a twinkle
in his eye, "and you must do so again. But no one will thunder at you
from the pulpit this time, so I leave you in peace and security, and
to-night will be within call."

Christine followed him to the lobby of the church, when the
irrepressible joker could not forbear saying: "Now let me give you a
little paternal advice. Don't be too grateful to that young Fleet. He
only did his duty, and of course doesn't deserve any special--"

Christine, with flushing cheeks, interrupted him as if she had not
heard: "Doctor, how good and kind you are! Here you are off without
any rest to look after the sick and suffering, and you seem to bring
health and hope wherever you go."

"Yes, yes; but I send my bill in too--mind that." (Some of his poorer
patients never received any, and he, when twitted of the fact, would
mutter, roughly, "Business oversight--can't attend to everything.")

Christine looked for a moment at the face so inspiring in its hearty
benevolence, and with an impulse, so unlike the cold, haughty girl of
old, sprang forward, threw her arms around his neck, and gave him a
kiss which he declared afterward was like a mild stroke of lightning,
and said, "And there is the first instalment of what I owe you."

The old gentleman looked as if he decidedly liked the currency, and
with moistened eyes that he vainly tried to render humorous, he raised
his finger impressively in parting, and said, "Don't you ever get out
of debt to me."



CHAPTER XLIX

BILL CRONK'S TOAST


After all, it was a long day to Christine.  Tears would start from her
eyes at the thought of her father, but she realized that the only thing
for her to do was to shroud his memory in a great, forgiving pity, and
put it away forever.  She could only turn from the mystery of his life
and death--the mystery of evil--to Him who taketh away the sin of the
world.  There was no darkness in that direction.  She busied herself
with Mrs. Leonard, and the distribution of food to others, till six
o'clock, and then she stood near the door to watch till her true knight
should appear in his shirt-sleeves, with a shovel on his shoulder, and
an old burned, tattered felt hat on his head, instead of jewelled crest
and heron plume.

Dennis had gone to his work not very hopeful.  He knew Christine would
be his grateful friend while she lived, and would perhaps even regard
him as a brother, but all this might be and still she be unable to
respond to his deeper feelings.  Moreover, he knew she was Baroness
Ludolph, and might be heiress of such titles and estates in Germany
as would require that she should go at once to secure them; and so she
seemed clearly to pass beyond his sphere.

As he shovelled the hot bricks and cinders hour after hour among other
laborers, the distance between himself and the Baroness Ludolph seemed
to increase; and when, begrimed and weary, he sat down to eat his
dinner of a single sandwich saved from breakfast (for as yet he had
no money), the ruins around him were quite in keeping with his feelings.
He thought most regretfully of his two thousand dollars and burned
picture. The brave, resolute spirit of the morning had deserted him.
He did not realize that few men have lived who could be brave and
hopeful when weary and hungry, and fewer still, when, in addition,
they doubted the favor of the lady of their love.

The work of the afternoon seemed desperately hard and long, but with
dogged persistency Dennis held his own with the others till six, and
in common with them received his two dollars. Whether Christine would
accept the supper he brought or not, he determined to fulfil his promise
and bring one. Wearily he trudged off to the west side, in order to
find a store. No one who met him would have imagined that this plodding
laborer was the artist who the week before had won the prize and title
of genius.

If he had been purchasing a supper for himself, he would doubtless
have been sensible about it; but one that the Baroness Ludolph might
share was a different matter. He bought some very rich cake, a can of
peaches, a box of sardines, some fruit, and then his money gave out!
But, with these incongruous and indigestible articles made up into one
large bundle, he started for the church. He had gone but a little way
when some one rushed upon him, and little Ernst clasped him round the
neck and fairly cried for joy. Sitting on the sidewalk near were the
other little Bruders, looking as forlorn and dirty as three motherless
children could. Dennis stopped and sat down beside them (for he was
too tired to stand), while Ernst told his story--how their mother had
left them, and how she had been found so burned that she was recognized
only by a ring (which he had) and a bit of the picture preserved under
her body. They had been looking ever since to find him, and had slept
where they could.

As Ernst sobbingly told his story the other children cried in doleful
chorus, and Dennis's tears fell fast too, as he realized how his humble
friend had perished. He remembered her kindness to his mother and
little sisters, and his heart acknowledged the claim of these poor
little orphans. Prudence whispered, "You cannot afford to burden
yourself with all these children," and pride added, "What a figure you
will make in presenting yourself before the Baroness Ludolph with all
these children at your heels!" But he put such thoughts resolutely
aside, and spoke like a brother; and when one of the children sobbed,
"We so hungry!" out came the Baroness Ludolph's fruit and cake, and
nothing remained for Christine but the sardines and peaches, since
these could not well be opened in the street. The little Bruders having
devoured what seemed to them the ambrosia of the gods, he took the
youngest in his arms, Ernst following with the others; and so they
slowly made their way to the church where Christine was now anxiously
waiting, with many surmises and forebodings at Dennis's delay.

At last, in the dusk, the little group appeared at the church-door,
and she exclaimed, "What has kept you so, Mr. Fleet?"

He determined to put the best face on the situation, and indulge in
no heroics, so he said, "You could not expect such a body of infantry
as this to march rapidly."

"What!" she exclaimed, "have you brought all the lost children in the
city back with you?"

"No, only those that fell properly to my care;" and in a few words he
told their story.

"And do you, without a cent in the world, mean to assume the burden
of these four children?" she asked, in accents of surprise.

He could not see her face, but his heart sank within him, for he thought
that to her it would seem quixotic and become another barrier between
them; but he answered, firmly: "Yes, till God, who has imposed the
burden, removes it, and enables me to place them among friends in a
good home. Mrs. Bruder, before she died, wrote to her family in Germany,
telling her whole story. Relatives may take the children; if not, some
way will be provided."

"Mr. Fleet, I wonder at you," was her answer. "Give me that child, and
you bring the others."

He wondered at her as he saw her take the child and imprint a kiss on
the sleepy, dirty face; and Ernst, who had been eying her askance,
crept timidly nearer when he saw the kiss, and whispered, "Perhaps her
old outside heart has been burned away."

They followed to a lobby of the lecture-room, and here she procured
a damp towel and proceeded to remove the tear and dust stains from the
round and wondering faces of the children. Having restored them to
something of their original color, she took them away to supper, saying
to Dennis, with a decided nod, "You stay here till I come for you."

Something in her manner reminded him of the same little autocrat who
had ordered him about when they arranged the store together. She soon
returned with a basin of water and a towel, saying: "See what a luxury
you secure by obeying orders. Now give an account of yourself, as every
lady's knight should on his return. How have you spent the day?"

He could not forbear laughing as he said: "My employment has been
almost ludicrously incongruous with the title by which you honor me.
I have been shovelling brick and mortar with other laborers."

"All day?"

"All day."

Her glance became so tender and wistful that he forgot to wash his
hands in looking at her, and felt for the moment as if he could shovel
rubbish forever, if such could be his reward.

Seemingly by an effort, she regained her brusque manner, which he did
not know was but the mask she was trying to wear, and said, quickly:
"What is the matter? Why don't you wash your face?"

"You told me to give an account of myself," he retorted, at the same
time showing rising color in his dust-begrimed face.

"Well, one of your ability can do two things at once. What have you
got in that bundle?"

"You may have forgotten, but I promised to bring you home something
that you chose to regard as charity."

"If I was so ungracious, you ought to have rewarded me by bringing me
a broken brick. Will you let me see what you brought?" but without
waiting for permission she pounced upon the bundle and dragged out the
peaches and sardines.

He, having washed and partially wiped his face, was now able to display
more of his embarrassment, and added, apologetically: "That is not all
I had. I also bought some cake and fruit, and then my money gave out."

"And do you mean to say that you have no money left?"

"Not a penny," he answered, desperately.

"But where are the cake and fruit?"

"Well," he said, laughingly, "I found the little Bruders famishing on
the sidewalk, and they got the best part of your supper."

"What an escape I have had!" she exclaimed. "Do you think I should
have survived the night if I had eaten those strangely assorted
dainties, as in honor bound I would have done, since you brought them?"
Then with a face of comical severity she turned upon him and said:
"Mr. Fleet, you need some one to take care of you. What kind of economy
do you call this, sir, especially on the part of one who has burdened
himself with four helpless children?"

There was a mingling of sense and seriousness in her raillery, which
he recognized, and he said, with a half-vexed laugh at himself: "Well,
really, Miss Ludolph, I suppose that I have not wholly regained my
wits since the fire. I throw myself on your mercy." (The same expression
he had used once before. She remembered it, and her face changed
instantly.) Turning hastily away to hide her feelings, she said, in
a rather husky voice, "When I was a wicked fool, I told you I had none;
but I think I am a little changed now." Then she added, sharply, "Please
don't stand there keeping our friends waiting"; and she led the way
into the lecture-room, now filled with tables and hungry people.

Dennis was in a maze, and could scarcely understand her, she was so
different from the pensive lady, shrinking from rude contact with the
world, that he had expected to meet. He did not realize that there was
not a particle of weak sentimentality about her, and that, since now
pride was gone, her energetic spirit would make her as truly a leader
in scenes like these as in those with which she had been familiar.
Much less could he understand that she was hiding a heart brimming
over with love to him.

He followed her, however, with much assumed humility. When in the
middle of the room, who should meet him squarely but Bill Cronk?

"Hello!" he roared, giving Dennis a slap on his back that startled
even the hungry, apathetic people at the tables.

Dennis was now almost desperate. Glad as he was to see Cronk, he felt
that he was gathering around him a company as incongruous as was the
supper he had brought home. If Yahcob Bunk or even the red-nosed
bartender had appeared, to claim him as brother, he would scarcely
have been surprised. He naturally thought that the Baroness Ludolph
might hesitate before entering such a circle of intimates. But he was
not guilty of the meanness of cutting a humble friend, even though he
saw the eyes of Christine resting on him. In his embarrassment, however,
he held out the washbasin in his confused effort to shake hands, and
said, heartily, "Why, Cronk, I am glad you came safely out of it."

"Is this gentleman a friend of yours?" asked Christine, with inimitable
grace.

"Yes!" said Dennis, firmly, though coloring somewhat. "He once rendered
me a great kindness--"

"Well, miss, you bet your money on the right hoss that time,"
interrupted Bill. "If I hain't a friend of his'n, I'd like to know where
you'll find one; though I did kick up like a cussed ole mule
when he knocked the bottle out of my hand. Like enough if he hadn't
I wouldn't be here."

"Won't you present me, Mr. Fleet?" said Christine, with an amused
twinkle in her eye.

"Mr. Cronk," said Dennis (who had now reached that state of mind when
one becomes reckless), "this lady is Miss Ludolph, and, I hope I may
venture to add, another friend of mine."

She at once put out her hand, that seemed like a snowflake in the great
horny paw of the drover, and said, "Indeed, Mr. Cronk, I will permit
no one to claim stronger friendship to Mr. Fleet than mine."

"I can take any friend of Mr. Fleet's to my buzzom at once," said Bill,
speaking figuratively, but Christine instinctively shrank nearer Dennis.
In talking with men, Bill used the off-hand vernacular of his calling,
but when addressing ladies, he evidently thought that a certain style
of metaphor bordering on sentiment was the proper thing. But Christine
said, "As a friend of Mr. Fleet's you shall join our party at once";
and she led them to the further end of the room, where at a table sat
Dr. Arten, Professor and Mrs. Leonard, Ernst, and the little Bruders,
who at the prospect of more eating were wide awake again. After the
most hearty greetings they were seated, and she took her place by the
side of the little children in order to wait on them. Few more
remarkable groups sat down together, even in that time of chaos and
deprivation. Professor Leonard was without vest or collar, and sat
with coat buttoned tight up to his chin to hide the defect. He had
lost his scholarly gold-rimmed spectacles; and a wonderful pair of
goggles bestrode his nose in their place. Mrs. Leonard was lost in the
folds of an old delaine dress that was a mile too large, and her face
looked as if she had assisted actively in an Irish wake. Dr. Arten did
the honors at the head of the table in his dress coat and vest that
had once been white, though he no longer figured around in red flannel
drawers as he had done on the beach. The little round faces of the
Bruders seemed as if protruding from animated rag babies, while nothing
could dim the glory of Ernst's great spiritual eyes, as they gratefully
and wistfully followed Dennis's every movement. Cronk was in a very
dilapidated and famished state, and endured many and varied tortures
in his efforts to be polite while he bolted sandwiches at a rate that
threatened famine. Christine still wore the woollen dress she had so
hastily donned with Dennis's assistance on Sunday night, and the marks
of the fire were all over it. Around her neck the sparks had burned
a hole here and there, through which her white shoulders gleamed. While
she was self-possessed and assiduous in her attention to the little
children, there was a glow of excitement in her eyes which perhaps
Mrs. Leonard understood better than any one else, though the shrewd
old doctor was anything but blind.

Dennis sat next to Christine in shirt-sleeves once white, but now,
through dust and smoke, of as many colors as Joseph's coat. He was too
weary to eat much, and there was a weight upon his spirits that he
could not throw off--the inevitable despondency that follows great
fatigue when the mind is not at rest.

Christine darted away and brought him a huge mug of hot coffee.

"Really, Miss Ludolph," he remonstrated, "you should not wait on me
in this style."

"You may well feel honored, sir," said Mrs. Leonard. "It is not every
man that is waited on by a baroness."

"The trouble with Christine is that she is too grateful," put in the
old doctor.

"Now I should say that was scarcely possible in view of--" commenced
the professor, innocently.

"I really hope Miss Ludolph will do nothing more from gratitude,"
interrupted Dennis, in a low tone that showed decided annoyance.

The doctor and Mrs. Leonard were ready to burst with suppressed
amusement, and Cronk, seeing something going on that he did not
understand, looked curiously around with a sandwich half-way to his
open mouth, while Ernst, believing from Dennis's tone that he was
wronged, turned his great eyes reproachfully from one to another. But
Christine was equal to the occasion. Lifting her head and looking round
with a free, clear glance she said, "And I say that men who meet this
great disaster with courage and fortitude, and hopefully set about
retrieving it, possess an inherent nobility such as no king or kaiser
could bestow, and, were I twenty times a baroness, I should esteem it
an honor to wait upon them."

A round of applause followed this speech, in which Cronk joined
vociferously, and Mrs. Leonard whispered: "Oh, Christine, how
beautifully I learn from your face the difference between dignity and
pride! That was your same old proud look, changed and glorified into
something so much better."

Dennis also saw her expression, and could not disguise his admiration,
but every moment he increasingly felt how desperately hard it would
be to give her up, now that she seemed to realize his very ideal of
womanhood.

And Cronk, having satisfied the clamors of his appetite, began to be
fascinated in his rough way with her grace and beauty. Nudging Dennis
he asked in a loud whisper heard by all, which nearly caused Dr. Arten
to choke, "The young filly is a German lady, ain't she?"

Dennis, much embarrassed, nodded assent.

A happy thought struck Bill. Though impeded by the weight of an
indefinite number of sandwiches, he slowly rose and looked solemnly
round on the little group. Dennis trembled, for he feared some dreadful
bull on the part of his rough, though well-meaning friend, but Dr.
Arten, in a state of intense enjoyment, cried, "Mr. Cronk has the
floor."

Lifting a can of coffee containing about a quart, the drover said
impressively, and with an attempt at great stateliness:

"Beautiful ladies and honorable gentlemen here assembled, I would
respectfully ask you to drink to a toast in this harmless beverage:
_The United States of Ameriky!_ When the two great elemental
races--the sanguinary Yankee and the phlegmatic German--become one,
and, as represented in the blooded team before me" (waving his hand
majestically over the heads of Dennis and Christine), "pull in the
traces together, how will the ship of state go forward!" and his face
disappeared behind his huge flagon of coffee in the deepest pledge.
Bill thought he had uttered a very profound and elegant sentiment, but
his speech fell like a bombshell in the little company.

"The very spirit of mischief is abroad to-day," Dennis groaned. And
Christine, with a face like a peony, snatched up the youngest little
Bruder, saying, "It is time these sleepy children were in bed"; but
the doctor and the Leonards went off again and again in uncontrollable
fits of laughter, in which Dennis could not refrain from joining,
though he wished the unlucky Cronk a thousand miles away. Bill put
down his mug, stared around in a surprised and nonplussed manner, and
then said, in a loud whisper, "I say, Fleet, was there any hitch in
what I said?"

This set them off again, but Dennis answered good-naturedly, slapping
his friend on the shoulder, "Cronk, you would make a man laugh in the
face of fate."

Bill took this as a compliment, and the strange party, thrown together
by an event that mingled all classes in the community, broke up and
went their several ways.



CHAPTER L

EVERY BARRIER BURNED AWAY


Dennis was glad to escape, and went to a side door where he could cool
his hot cheeks in the night air. He fairly dreaded to meet Christine
again, and, even where the wind blew cold upon him, his cheeks grew
hotter and hotter, as he remembered what had occurred. He had been
there but a little time when a light hand fell on his arm, and he was
startled by her voice--"Mr. Fleet, are you very tired?"

"Not in the least," he answered, eagerly.

"You must be: it is wrong for me to think of it."

"Miss Ludolph, please tell me what I can do for you?"

She looked at him wistfully and said: "This is a time when loss and
disaster burden every heart, and I know it is a duty to try to maintain
a cheerful courage, and forget personal troubles. I have tried to-day,
and, with God's help, hope in time to succeed. While endeavoring to
wear in public a cheerful face, I may perhaps now, and to so true a
friend as yourself, show more of my real feelings. Is it too far--would
it take too long, to go to where my father died? His remains could not
have been removed."

"Alas, Miss Ludolph," said Dennis, very gently, "there can be no visible
remains. The words of the Prayer Book are literally true in this
case--'Ashes to ashes.'  But I can take you to the spot, and it is
natural that you should wish to go. Are you equal to the fatigue?"

"I shall not feel it if you go with me, and then we can ride part of
the way, for I have a little money." (Dr. Arten had insisted on her
taking some.) "Wait for me a moment."

She soon reappeared with her shawl cut in two equal parts. One she
insisted on folding and putting around him as a Scotsman wears his
plaid. "You will need it in the cool night wind," she said, and then
she took his arm in perfect trust, and they started.

In the cars she gave him her money, and he said, "I will return my
fare to-morrow night."

"What!" she replied, looking a little hurt. "After spending two dollars
on me, will you not take five cents in return?"

"But I spent it foolishly."

"You spent it like a generous man. Surely, Mr. Fleet, you did not
understand my badinage this evening. If I had not spoken to you in
that strain, I could not have spoken at all. You have been a brother
to me, and we should not stand on these little things."

"That is it," thought he again. "She looks upon and trusts me as a
brother, and such I must try to be till she departs for her own land;
yet if she knew the agony of the effort she would scarcely ask it."

But as they left the car, he said, "All that you would ask from a
brother, please ask from me."

She put her hand in his, and said, "I now ask your support, sympathy,
and prayer, for I feel that I shall need all here."

Still retaining her hand, he placed it on his arm and guided her most
carefully around the hot ruins and heaps of rubbish till they came to
where the Art Building had stood. The moon shone brightly down, lighting
up with weird and ghostly effect the few walls remaining. They were
utterly alone in the midst of a desolation sevenfold more impressing
than that of the desert. Pointing to the spot where, in the midst of his
treasures of art and idolized worldly possessions, Mr. Ludolph had
perished, she said, in a thrilling whisper, "My father's ashes are
there."

"Yes."

Her breath came quick and short, and her face was so pale and agonized
that he trembled for her, but he tightened his grasp on her hand, and
his tears fell with hers.

"Oh, my father!" she cried, in a tone of unspeakable pathos, "can I
never, never see you again? Can I never tell you of the love of Jesus,
and the better and happier life beyond? Oh, how my heart yearns after
you! God forgive me if this is wrong, but I cannot help it!"

"It is not wrong," said Dennis, brokenly. "Our Lord himself wept over
those He could not save."

"It is all that I can do," she murmured, and, leaning her head on his
shoulder, a tempest of sobs shook her person.

He supported her tenderly, and said, in accents of the deepest sympathy,
"Let every tear fall that will: they will do you good." At last, as
she became calmer, he added, "Remember that your great Elder Brother
has called the heavy laden to Him for rest."

At last she raised her head, turned, and gave one long parting look,
and, as Dennis saw her face in the white moonlight, it was the face
of a pitying angel. A low "Farewell!" trembled from her lips, she
leaned heavily on his arm, they turned away, and seemingly the curtain
fell between father and child to rise no more.

"Mr. Fleet," she said, pleadingly, "are you too tired to take me to
my old home on the north side?"

"Miss Ludolph, I could go to the ends of the earth for you, but you
are not equal to this strain upon your feelings. Have mercy on
yourself."

But she said, in a low, dreamy tone: "I wish to take leave to-night
of my old life--the strange, sad past with its mystery of evil; and
then I shall set my face resolutely toward a better life--a better
country. So bear with me, my true, kind friend, a little longer."

"Believe me, my thought was all for you. All sense of fatigue has
passed away."

Silently they made their way, till they stood where, a few short days
before, had been the elegant home that was full of sad and painful
memories to both.

"There was my studio," she said in the same dreamy tone, "where I
indulged in my wild, ambitious dreams, and sought to grasp a little
fading circlet of laurel, while ignoring a heavenly and an immortal
crown. There," she continued, her pale face becoming crimson, even in
the white moonlight, "I most painfully wronged you, my most generous,
forgiving friend, and a noble revenge you took when you saved my life
and led me to a Saviour. May God reward you; but I humbly ask your
pardon--"

"Please, Miss Ludolph, do not speak of that. I have buried it all. Do
not pain yourself by recalling that which I have forgiven and almost
forgotten. You are now my ideal of all that is noble and good, and in
my solitary artist life of the future you shall be my gentle yet potent
inspiration."

"Why must your life be solitary in the future?" she asked, in a low
tone.

He was very pale, and his arm trembled under her hand; at last he said,
in a hoarse voice, "Do not ask me. Why should I pain you by telling
you the truth?"

"Is it the part of a true friend to refuse confidence?" she asked,
reproachfully.

He turned his face away, that she might not see the evidences of the
bitter struggle within--the severest he had ever known; but at last
he spoke in the firm and quiet voice of victory. She had called him
brother, and trusted him as such. She had ventured out alone on a
sacred mission with him, as she might with a brother. She was dependent
on him, and burdened by a feeling of obligation. His high sense of
honor forbade that he should urge his suit under such circumstances.
If she could not accept, how painful beyond words would be the necessity
of refusal, and the impression had become almost fixed in his mind
that her regard for him was only sisterly and grateful in its character.

"Yes, Miss Ludolph," he said, "my silence is the part of true
friendship--truer than you can ever know. May Heaven's richest blessings
go with you to your own land, and follow you through a long, happy
life."

"My own land? This is my own land."

"Do you not intend to go abroad at once, and enter upon your ancestral
estates as the Baroness Ludolph?"

"Not if I can earn a livelihood in Chicago," she answered, most firmly.
"Mr. Fleet, all that nonsense has perished as utterly as this my former
home. It belongs to my old life, of which I have forever taken leave
to-night. My ancestral estate in Germany is but a petty affair, and
mortgaged beyond its real worth by my deceased uncle. All I possess,
all I value, is in this city. It was my father's ambition, and at one
time my own, to restore the ancient grandeur of the family with the
wealth acquired in this land. The plan lost its charms for me long
ago--I would not have gone if I could have helped it--and now it is
impossible. It has perished in flame and smoke. Mr. Fleet, you see
before you a simple American girl. I claim and wish to be known in no
other character. If nothing remains of my father's fortune I shall
teach either music or painting--"

"Oh, Christine!" he interrupted, "forgive me for speaking to you under
the circumstances, but indeed I cannot help it. Is there hope for me?"

She looked at him so earnestly as to remind him of her strange, steady
gaze when before he pleaded for her love near that same spot, but her
hand trembled in his like a fluttering, frightened bird. In a low,
eager tone she said, "And can you still truly love me after all the
shameful past?"

"When have I ceased to love you?"

With a little cry of ecstasy, like the note of joy that a weary bird
might utter as it flew to its mate, she put her arm around his neck,
buried her face on his shoulder, and said, "No _hope_ for you, Dennis,
but perfect _certainty,_ for now EVERY BARRIER IS BURNED AWAY!"

What though the home before them is a deserted ruin? Love is joining
hands that shall build a fairer and better one, because filled with
that which only makes a home--love.

What though all around are only dreary ruins, where the night wind is
sighing mournfully? Love has transformed that desert place into the
paradise of God; and, if such is its power in the wastes of earthly
desolation, what will be its might amid the perfect scenes of heaven?

Our story is finished.

It only remains to say that Christine stands high at court, but it is
a grander one than any of earth. She is allied to a noble, but to one
who has received his patent from no petty sovereign of this world. She
has lost sight of the transient laurel wreath which she sought to grasp
at such cost to herself and others, in view of the "crown of glory
that fadeth not away," and to this already, as an earnest Christian,
she has added starry jewels.

Below is the Ludolph Hall in which sturdy independence led her to begin
her married life. But she is climbing the mountain at her husband's
side, and often her hands steady and help him. The ash-tree, twined
with the passion-flower, is not very far above them, and the villa,
beautiful within and without, is no vain dream of the future. But even
in happy youth their eyes of faith see in airy, golden outline their
heavenly home awaiting them.





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