Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Redeemed
Author: Downs, Mrs. George Sheldon
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Redeemed" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



[Frontispiece: "WHO IS SHE?" SHE DEMANDED ALMOST SHARPLY.
Frontispiece--Page 46.]



  REDEEMED


  BY

  Mrs. GEORGE SHELDON DOWNS

  AUTHOR OF
  "Gertrude Elliott's Crucible," "Step by Step,"
  "Katherine's Sheaves," etc.



  Illustrations by
  CLARENCE ROWE



  M. A. DONOHUE & COMPANY
  CHICAGO NEW YORK



  Copyright, 1910 and 1911
  By VICKERY & HILL PUB. CO.

  Copyright, 1911
  By G. W. DILLINGHAM COMPANY

  _Redeemed_



  CONTENTS

  CHAPTER

  I A WIFE REPUDIATED
  II THE FINAL RUPTURE
  III A BACKWARD GLANCE
  IV A YOUNG WIFE'S BRAVE STRUGGLES
  V FLUCTUATING EXPERIENCES
  VI AN OLD TEMPTATION REVIVED
  VII SERIOUS DOMESTIC COMPLICATIONS
  VIII HELEN PLANS HER FUTURE
  IX AFTER TEN YEARS
  X A BRIEF RETROSPECT
  XI A SEALED BOOK REOPENED
  XII THE SOUBRETTE
  XIII A TRYING INTERVIEW
  XIV "LOVE THY NEIGHBOR"
  XV A STARTLING APPARITION
  XVI SACKCLOTH AND ASHES
  XVII AS WHEAT IS SIFTED
  XVIII LOVING SERVICE
  XIX JOHN HUNGERFORD BEGINS LIFE ANEW
  XX FIVE YEARS LATER
  XXI SOME INTERESTING REVELATIONS
  XXII A HAPPY REUNION
  XXIII A FINAL RENUNCIATION
  XXIV A MASTERPIECE



ILLUSTRATIONS

"Who is she?" she demanded almost sharply . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

"To begin with, and not to mince matters, I want some money"

She found herself face to face with John Hungerford

"The stranger was--my father"


[Transcriber's note: The last three illustrations were missing from the
source book]



REDEEMED



CHAPTER I.

A WIFE REPUDIATED.

  Two lives that once part are as ships that divide,
  When, moment on moment, there rushes between
    The one and the other a sea--
  Ah, never can fall from the days that have been
  A gleam on the years that shall be.
                                    BULWER LYTTON.


"Very well, John; I have nothing more to say.  You can commence
proceedings as soon as you choose.  I shall not contest them."

The speaker was a slight, graceful woman of perhaps thirty-five years.
Her figure was a little above the medium stature, and symmetrical,
almost perfect, in its proportions.  Her beautiful, refined face and
proudly poised, shapely head were crowned with a wealth of soft brown
hair, in which there was a glint of red, and which lay in bright
profusion above her white forehead, in charming contrast with the
delicate fairness of her skin, which, at the present moment, was
absolutely colorless.

Drawn to her full height, she was standing opposite her companion, her
large, expressive gray eyes, in which pity and scorn struggled for
supremacy, lifted to his in a direct, unflinching gaze which bespoke
the strength of purpose and straightforward character of one who
possessed the courage of her convictions; while, in her rich-toned
voice, as well as in her crisp, decisive sentences, there was a note of
finality which plainly indicated that she had taken her stand regarding
the matter under discussion, and would abide by it.

"What!  Am I to understand that you do not intend to contest
proceedings for a divorce, Helen?"

Surprise and an unmistakable intonation of eagerness pervaded John
Hungerford's tones as he spoke, while, at the same time, he searched
his wife's face with a curious, almost startled, look.

At a casual glance the man impressed one as possessing an unusually
attractive personality.

He had a fine, athletic figure--tall, broad-shouldered,
well-proportioned--which, together with an almost military bearing,
gave him a distinguished air, that instantly attracted attention
wherever he went.  A clear olive complexion, dark-brown eyes and hair,
handsomely molded features, and a luminous smile, that revealed white,
perfect teeth, completed the _tout ensemble_ that had made havoc with
not a few susceptible hearts, even before he had finally bestowed his
coveted affections upon beautiful Helen Appleton, whom later he had
made his wife.  But upon closer acquaintance one could not fail to
detect disappointing lines in his face, and corresponding flaws in his
character--a shifty eye, a weak mouth and chin, an indolent,
ease-loving temperament, that would shirk every responsibility, and an
insatiable desire for personal entertainment, that betrayed excessive
selfishness and a lack of principle.

"No," the woman coldly replied to her husband's exclamation of
astonishment, "I have no intention of opposing any action that you may
see fit to take to annul our union, provided----"

She paused abruptly, a sudden alertness in her manner and tone.

"Well?" he questioned impatiently, and with a frown which betokened
intolerance of opposition.

"Provided you do not attempt to take Dorothy from me, or to compromise
me in any way in your efforts to free yourself."

The man shrugged his broad shoulders and arched his fine eyebrows.

"I am not sighing for publicity for either you or myself, Helen," he
observed.  "I simply wish to get the matter settled as quickly and
quietly as possible.  As for Dorothy, however----"

"There can be no question about Dorothy; she is to be relinquished
absolutely to me," Helen Hungerford interposed, with sharp decision.

"You appear to be very insistent upon _that_ point," retorted her
companion, with sneering emphasis and an unpleasant lifting of his
upper lip that just revealed the tips of his gleaming teeth.

"I certainly am; that my child remains with me is a foregone
conclusion," was the spirited reply.

"The judge may decree differently----"

"You will not dare suggest it," returned the wife, in a coldly quiet
tone, but with a dangerous gleam in her eyes.  "No judge would render
so unrighteous a decree if I were to tell my story, which I certainly
should do if driven to it.  I have assented to your demand for this
separation, but before I sign any papers to ratify the agreement you
will legally surrender all claim to, or authority over, Dorothy."

"Indeed!  Aren't you assuming a good deal of authority for yourself,
Helen?  You appear to forget that Dorothy is my child as well as
yours--that I love her----"

"_Love her!_"  Exceeding bitterness vibrated in the mother's voice.
"How have you shown your love for her?  However, it is useless to
discuss that point.  I have given you my ultimatum--upon no other
condition will I consent to this divorce," she concluded, with an air
of finality there was no mistaking.

"I swear I will not do it!" John Hungerford burst forth, with sudden
anger.

An interval of silence followed, during which each was apparently
absorbed in troubled thought.

"Possibly it will make no difference whether you do or do not accede to
my terms," Mrs. Hungerford resumed, after a moment, "for it has
occurred to me that there is already a law regulating the guardianship
of minors, giving the child a voice in the matter; and, Dorothy being
old enough to choose her own guardian, there can be little doubt
regarding what her choice would be."

"You are surely very sanguine," sneered her husband.

"And why should I not be?" demanded the woman, in a low but intense
tone.  "What have you to offer her?  What have you ever done for her,
or to gain her confidence and respect, that could induce her to trust
her future with you?  How do you imagine she will regard this last
humiliation to which you are subjecting her and her mother?"

John Hungerford flushed a conscious crimson as these pertinent
questions fell from the lips of his outraged wife.  His glance wavered
guiltily, then fell before the clear, accusing look in her eyes.

"Oh, doubtless you have her well trained in the rôle she is to play,"
he sullenly observed, after an interval of awkward silence, during
which he struggled to recover his customary self-assurance.  "You have
always indulged her lightest whim, and so have tied her securely to
your apron strings, which, it goes without saying, has weakened my hold
upon her."

His companion made no reply to this acrid fling, but stood in an
attitude of quiet dignity, awaiting any further suggestions he might
have to offer.

But, having gained his main point--her consent to a legal
separation--the man was anxious to close the interview and escape from
a situation that was becoming exceedingly uncomfortable for him.  At
the same time, he found it no easy matter to bring the interview to a
close and take final leave of the wife whom he was repudiating.

"Well, Helen," he finally observed, assuming a masterful tone to cover
his increasing embarrassment, "I may have more to say regarding
Dorothy, later on--we will not discuss the matter further at present.
Now, I am going--unless you have something else you wish to say to me."

Helen Hungerford shivered slightly at these last words, and grew marble
white.

Then she suddenly moved a step or two nearer to him, and lifted her
beautiful face to him, a solemn light in her large gray eyes.

"Yes, I have something else I would like to say to you, John," she
said, her voice growing tremulous for the first time during their
interview.  "This separation is, as you know, of your own seeking, not
mine.  A so-called divorce, though sanctioned a thousand times by
misnamed law, means nothing to me.  When I married you I pledged myself
to you until death should part us, and I would have held fast to my
vows until my latest breath.  I may have made mistakes during the years
we have lived together, but you well know that whenever I have taken a
stand against your wishes it has always been for conscience's sake.  I
have honestly tried to be a faithful wife--a true helpmeet, and a wise
mother.  I have freely given you the very best there was in me to give.
Now, at your decree, we are to part.  I make no contest--I hurl no
reproaches--I simply submit.  But I have one last plea to make: I beg
of you not to ruin your future in the way you are contemplating--you
know what I mean--for life is worthless without an honored name,
without the respect of your fellow men, and, above all, without
_self-respect_.  You have rare talent--talent that would lift you high
upon the ladder of fame and success, if you would cease to live an
aimless, barren existence.  For your own sake, I pray you will not
longer pervert it.  That is all.  Good-by, John; I hear Dorothy coming,
and you may have something you would like to say before you go."

She slipped quietly between the portières near which she had been
standing, and was gone as a door opened to admit a bright, winsome
lassie of about fifteen years.

Dorothy Hungerford strongly resembled her mother.  She was formed like
her; she had the same pure complexion, the same large, clear gray eyes
and wealth of reddish-brown hair, which hung in a massive braid--like a
rope of plaited satin--between her shoulders, and was tied at the end
with a great bow of blue ribbon.

The girl paused abruptly upon the threshold, and flushed a startled
crimson as her glance fell upon her father.

"Where--is mamma?" she inquired, in evident confusion.

"Your mother has just gone to her room," the man replied, his brows
contracting with a frown of pain as he met his daughter's beautiful but
clouded eyes.  "Come in, Dorothy," he added, throwing a touch of
brightness into his tones; "I wish to have a little talk with you."

The maiden reluctantly obeyed, moving forward a few paces into the room
and gravely searching her father's face as she did so.

"I suppose you know that I am going away, Dorothy?  Your mother has
told you--ahem!--of the--the change I--we are contemplating?" John
Hungerford inquiringly observed, but with unmistakable embarrassment.

"Yes, sir," said Dorothy, with an air of painful constraint.

"How would you like to come with me, dear?  You have a perfect right to
choose with whom you will live for the future."

"I choose to live with my mother!"  And there was now no constraint
accompanying the girl's positive reply.

The man's right hand clenched spasmodically; then his dark eyes blazed
with sudden anger.

"Ha!  Evidently your mother has been coaching you upon the subject," he
sharply retorted.

"Mamma hasn't said a word to me about--about that part of the--the
plan," Dorothy faltered.

"Then you mean me to understand that, of your own free will, you prefer
to remain with your mother altogether?"

Dorothy nodded her drooping head in assent, not possessing sufficient
courage to voice her attitude.

"Pray tell me what is your objection to living with me--at least for a
portion of each year?"

The child did not immediately answer.  The situation was an exceedingly
trying one, and she appeared to be turning her father's proposition
over in her mind.

At length she lifted her head, and her eyes met his in a clear, direct
gaze.

"Where are you going to live?" she questioned, with significant
emphasis.

Her companion shrank before her look and words as if he had been
sharply smitten.

"That is not the question just at present," he said, quickly recovering
himself.  "I asked what objection you have to living with me.  Don't
you love me at all?"

Again Dorothy's head fell, and, pulling the massive braid of her ruddy
hair over her shoulder, she stood nervously toying with it in silence.

"Dorothy, I wish you to answer me," her father persisted, greatly
irritated by her attitude toward him, and growing reckless of
consequences in his obstinate determination to force her to give him a
definite answer.

But Dorothy was not devoid of obstinacy herself.  She pouted
irresolutely a moment; then, tossing her braid back into its place,
stood erect, and faced her father squarely.

"Why are you going away--why will you not live here with mamma?"

Again the man flushed hotly.  He was guiltily conscious that she knew
well enough why.

"I--we are not congenial, and it is better that we live apart," he
faltered, as he shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other.
Then, becoming suddenly furious in view of being thus arraigned by his
own child, he thundered: "Now I command you to give me your reason for
refusing to live with me during some portion of each year!  I know," he
went on, more temperately, "that you love your mother, and I would not
wish to take you from her altogether; but I am your father--I certainly
have some claim upon you, and it is natural that I should desire to
keep you with me some of the time.  Now, tell me at once your
objections to the plan," he concluded sternly.

The interview had been a severe strain upon the delicately organized
and proud-spirited girl, and she had found great difficulty in
preserving her self-control up to this point; but now his tone and
manner were like spark to powder.

"Because----  Oh, because I think you are just horrid!  I used to think
you such a gentleman, and I was proud of you; but now you have shamed
me so!  No, I don't love you, and I wouldn't go to live with you
and--and _that dreadful woman_ for anything!" she recklessly threw back
at him.

For a minute John Hungerford stood speechless, staring blankly at his
child, his face and lips colorless and drawn.  Her words had stabbed
him cruelly.

"Dorothy, you are impertinent!" he said severely, when he could command
his voice.

She caught her breath sharply; she bit her lips fiercely, her white
teeth leaving deep imprints upon them; then passion swept all before it.

"I know it--I _feel_ impertinent!  I feel awful wicked, as if I could
do something dreadful!" she cried shrilly and quivering from head to
foot from mingled anger and grief.  "You have broken mamma's heart, and
it breaks mine, too, to see her looking so crushed and getting so white
and thin.  And now you are going to put this open disgrace upon
her--upon us both--just because you are tired of her and think you like
some one else better.  I do love my mother--she is the dearest mother
in the world, and I'm glad you're going.  I--I don't care if I
never----"

Her voice broke sharply, at this point, into something very like a
shriek.  She had wrought herself up to a frenzy of excitement, and now,
with great sobs shaking her slight form like a reed, she turned
abruptly away, and dashed wildly out of the room, slamming the door
violently behind her.



CHAPTER II.

THE FINAL RUPTURE.

John Hungerford was stricken with astonishment and dismay by the
foregoing outburst of passion from his child.  As a rule, she had ever
been gentle and tractable, rarely defying his authority, and never
before had he seen her manifest such temper as she had just given way
to.  He had always believed that she loved him, although he had long
been conscious of a growing barrier between them--that she invariably
sought her mother's companionship when she was in the house, and held
aloof from him.  But he had been so absorbed in his own pursuits that
he had not given much serious thought to the matter; consequently it
had now come like a bolt from a clear sky, when she had openly declared
that she did not love him, while he was at no loss for words to
complete the scathing, unfinished sentence to which she had given
utterance just before she had fled from his presence.

It had taken him unawares, and, indifferent as he had become to his
responsibilities as a husband and father; determined as he was to cut
loose from them to gratify his pleasure-loving and vacillating
disposition, his heart was now bruised and lacerated, his proud spirit
humiliated as it never before had been, by Dorothy's passionate
arraignment and bitter repudiation of him.

His wife, greatly to his surprise, had received him with her accustomed
courtesy, had quietly acceded to his wishes when he informed her that
he contemplated seeking a divorce, and had calmly told him that she had
no intention of contesting his application for a legal separation.  He
had not believed he would be able to secure his freedom so easily, and
secretly congratulated himself that the matter had been so quickly
adjusted, and had terminated without a scene, even though he had been
not a little chagrined by his wife's dignified bearing and a certain
conscious superiority throughout the interview; also by the absence of
all excitement or sentiment, except as, now and then, a flash of scorn
or pity for him leaped from her eyes or rang in her tones.

But it had been quite another thing to have Dorothy, whom he had always
fondly loved, in his selfish way, so openly denounce him for his
faithlessness to her mother, and impeach him for the humiliation to
which he was about to subject them both.  As his anger subsided, as he
began to realize something of what it meant, he was cut to the quick,
and a sickening sense of loss and desolation suddenly swept over him,
causing his throat to swell with painful tension and his eyes to sting
with a rush of hot tears.

His only child--his pet and little playmate for fifteen years--had
practically told him that she would not care if she never saw him
again.  It seemed almost as if she had suddenly died and were lost to
him forever.  He wondered if he ever would see her again, hear her
fresh young voice calling "papa," or feel her soft lips caressing his
cheek.

He stood for several minutes staring miserably at the door through
which she had disappeared, a long, quivering sigh heaving his broad
chest.  Then his eyes swept the familiar, tastefully arranged room,
which showed the graceful touch of his wife's deft hands in every
detail, and finally rested upon the great bow of blue ribbon which had
become loosened from Dorothy's hair and fallen to the floor almost at
his feet.

He stooped, picked it up, and thrust it into his bosom; then
mechanically took his hat, and quietly left the house.

But, as the outer door closed behind him, and the latch clicked sharply
into its socket, there shot through all his nerves a thrill of keen
pain which for many years repeated itself whenever the same sound fell
upon his ears.

There seemed to be an ominous knell of finality in it, and, mingling
with it, a sinister jeer at his supreme folly in thus turning his back
forever upon this attractive, though comparatively simple, home, with
its atmosphere of purity and sweet, refining influences; in discarding
the beautiful and loyal woman whom he had once believed he adored; in
abandoning and forfeiting the affection and respect of a lovely
daughter, who also gave promise of becoming, in the near future, a
brilliant and cultured woman, and--for what?

More than an hour elapsed after Dorothy fled from her father's presence
before she could control herself sufficiently to seek her mother, who
also had been fighting a mighty battle in the solitude of her own room.
Even then the girl's eyes were red and swollen from excessive weeping;
neither had she been able to overcome wholly the grief-laden sobs
which, for the time, had utterly prostrated her.

"Mamma, he has told me, and--he has gone," she faltered, almost on the
verge of breaking down again, as she threw herself upon her knees by
her mother's side and searched with anxious eyes the white, set face of
the deserted wife.

"Yes, dear; I heard him go."

"Do you think it will be forever?"

"That is what a divorce--a legal separation--means, Dorothy."

The girl dropped her head upon her mother's shoulder, with a moan of
pain, and Helen slipped a compassionate arm around the trembling form.

"Mamma," Dorothy began again, after a few moments of silence.

"Well, dear?"

"I think it is awful--what he is doing; but don't you think that
we--you and I--can be happy again, by and by, just by ourselves?"

"I am sure we can, dearest," was the brave response, as Helen
Hungerford drew her daughter closer to her in a loving embrace.

Dorothy seized her mother's hand and kissed it passionately, two great,
burning tears dropping upon it as she did so.

"He asked me to go with him--to live with him some of the time," she
presently resumed.

"And you told him----" breathed Helen, almost inaudibly.

"I was very disrespectful, mamma," confessed the girl humbly; "but I
couldn't help it when I thought what it all meant.  I said I wouldn't
live with him for anything--I almost told him that I wouldn't care if I
never saw him again.  Where will he go now?  What will he do?  Will--he
marry _that woman_?" she concluded, her voice growing hard and tense
again.

Her mother's lips grew blue and pinched with the effort she made to
stifle a cry of agony at the shameful suggestion.  But she finally
forced herself to reply, with some semblance of composure:

"I do not know, Dorothy, and we will try not to worry over anything
that he may do.  However, when he secures the necessary decree from the
court he will have the legal right to do as he pleases."

"The _legal_ right," repeated Dorothy reflectively.

"Yes, the law will give him the right to marry again if he wishes to do
so."

"What an abominable law!  And what a shameful thing for any man to want
to do, when he already has a family!  What will people think of us if
he does?" queried the girl, with a shiver of repulsion.

"My dear, ask rather what people will think of _him_," said her mother
tenderly, as she laid her lips in a gentle caress against the child's
forehead.

"Of course, I know that nice people will not respect him; but I can't
help feeling that the shame of it will touch us, too," opposed
sensitive Dorothy.

"No, dear; what he has done, or may do, cannot harm either you or me in
the estimation of our real friends," replied Helen, throwing a note of
cheer she was far from feeling into her tones.  "It can only bring
condemnation upon himself, and you are not to feel any sense of
degradation because of your father's wrongdoing.  We are simply the
innocent victims of circumstances over which we have no control; and,
Dorrie, you and I will so live that all who know us will be compelled
to respect us for ourselves."

Dorothy heaved a deep sigh of relief as her mother concluded, and her
somber eyes brightened perceptibly.  She sat silently thinking for f
several minutes; then a cloud again darkened her face.

"Mamma," she began hesitatingly, "you said the law would give p--him
the right to do as he pleases--to marry that woman.  Can you do as you
please?  Could you----"

"Oh, hush, Dorothy!" gasped the tortured wife, in a shocked tone, and
laying an icy hand over the girl's lips.  "When I married your father,"
she went on more calmly after a little, "I promised to be true to him
while we both lived, and you must never think of anything like that for
me--never--_never_!  He may choose another, but I----  Oh, God, my
burden is heavier than I can bear!"

Helen Hungerford buried her agonized face in her hands, cowering and
shrinking from the repulsive suggestion as if she had been smitten with
a lash.

Dorothy was shocked by the effect of her thoughtless question.  She had
never seen her mother so unnerved before.

"Oh, mamma, don't!" she cried wildly.  "I love you dearly--dearly--I
did not mean to hurt you so, and I _hate_ him for making you so
wretched--for putting this dreadful disgrace upon us both.  I will
never forgive him--I never want to see him again.  I know it is wicked
to hate, but I can't help it--I don't care!  I do--I do----"

These incoherent utterances ended in a piercing shriek as the
overwrought girl threw herself prone upon the floor at her mother's
feet, in a violent paroxysm of hysteria.

She was a sensitively organized child, proud as a young princess, and
possessed of a high sense of honor; and grief over the threatened break
in the family, together with fear of the opprobrium which she believed
it would entail upon her idolized mother, as well as upon herself, had
been preying upon her mind for several weeks; and now the climax had
come, the cloud had burst, and, with the strenuous excitement and
experiences of the day, had resulted in this nervous collapse.

Hours elapsed before Helen succeeded in soothing her into any degree of
calmness, and when at last she fell into a deep sleep, from utter
exhaustion, the forsaken wife found something very like hatred surging
within her own heart toward the faithless man who had ruthlessly
wrecked their happiness.

"Neither will I forgive him for imposing this lifelong sorrow and taint
upon my child," she secretly vowed as she sat through the long, lonely
hours of the night, and watched beside the couch of her daughter.

In due time, she received formal announcement that her husband had
secured his divorce, and that she also was free, by the decree of the
court; and, following close upon this verdict, came the news that John
Hungerford, the artist, had gone abroad again to resume his studies in
Paris.

It was significant, too, at least to Helen, that the same papers
stating this fact also mentioned that the Wells Opera Company, which
had just finished a most successful season in San Francisco, was booked
for a long engagement, with Madam Marie Duncan as leading soprano, in
the same city; the opening performance was set for a date in the near
future.



CHAPTER III.

A BACKWARD GLANCE.

Helen Gregory Appleton was the only child of cultured people, who,
possessing a moderate fortune, had spared no pains or expense to give
their daughter a thorough education, with the privilege of cultivating
whatever accomplishments she preferred, or talent that she possessed.

Helen was an exceptionally bright girl, and, having conscientiously
improved her opportunities, she had graduated from high school at the
age of seventeen, and from a popular finishing school at twenty, a
beautiful and accomplished young woman, the joy and pride of her
devoted parents, who anticipated for her not only a brilliant social
career, but also an auspicious settlement in life.

Her only hobby throughout her school life had been music, of which,
from childhood, she had been passionately fond.  "I don't care for
drawing or painting," she affirmed, "so I will stick to music, and try
to do one thing well."  And with no thought of ever making it a
profession, but simply for love of it, she had labored tirelessly to
acquire proficiency in this accomplishment, with the result that she
not only excelled as a pianist, but was also a pleasing
vocalist--attainments which, later in life, were destined to bring her
rich returns for her faithful study.

It was during her last year in school that she had met John Hungerford,
a graduate of Yale College, and a promising young man, possessing great
personal attractions.  He was bright, cheerful, and witty, always
looking for the humorous side of life; while, being of an easy-going
temperament, he avoided everything like friction in his intercourse
with others, which made him a very harmonious and much-sought-after
companion.  Naturally courteous, genial, and quick at repartee,
enthusiastically devoted to athletic sports, ever ready to lead in a
frolic and to entertain lavishly, he was generally voted an "all-around
jolly good fellow."  Hence he had early become a prime favorite with
his class, and also with the faculty, and remained such throughout his
course.

He was not a brilliant scholar, however, and barely succeeded in
winning his degree at the end of his four years' term.  He did not love
study; he lacked application and tenacity of purpose, except in sports,
or such things as contributed to his personal entertainment.  At the
same time, he had too much pride to permit him to fail to secure his
diploma, and he managed to win out; but with just as little work and
worry as possible.

The only direction in which he had ever shown a tendency to excel was
in art, the love of which he had inherited from his paternal
grandfather, who, in his day, had won some renown, both abroad and in
his own country, as a landscape painter; and from early boyhood "John
Hungerford, Second"--his namesake--had shown unmistakable talent in the
same direction.

Possessing a small fortune, which had fallen to him from this same
relative, the young man had given scarcely a serious thought to his
future.

Life had always been a bright gala day to him; money was easy, friends
were plenty, and, with perfect health, what more could he ask of the
years to come?  And when questioned regarding what business or
profession he purposed to follow, on leaving college, he would reply,
with his usual irresponsible manner: "It will be time enough to decide
that matter later on.  I propose to see something of the world, and
have some fun, before settling down to the humdrum affairs of life."

Once the formality of their introduction was over, John had proceeded
forthwith to fall desperately in love with beautiful Helen Appleton,
and, as she reciprocated his affection, an early engagement had
followed.  Six months later they were married, and sailed for Europe,
with the intention of making an extensive tour abroad.

Helen's parents had not sanctioned this hurried union without
experiencing much anxiety and doubt regarding the wisdom of giving
their idolized daughter to one whom they had known for so short a time.
But young Hungerford's credentials had appeared to be unquestionable,
his character above reproach, his personality most winning, and his
means ample; thus there had seemed no reasonable objection to the
marriage.

The young man's wooing had been so eager, and Helen so enamored of her
handsome lover, who swept before him every argument or obstacle
calculated to retard the wedding with such plausible insistence, that
the important event had been consummated almost before they could
realize what it might mean to them all when the excitement and glamour
had worn away.

Frequent letters came to them from the travelers, filled with loving
messages, with enthusiastic descriptions of their sight-seeing, and
expressions of perfect happiness in each other; and the fond father and
mother, though lonely without their dear one, comforted themselves with
assurances that all was well with her, and they would soon have her
back with them again.

After spending a year in travel and sight-seeing, the young couple
drifted back to Paris, from which point they intended, after John had
made another round of the wonderful art galleries, which had enthralled
him upon their previous visit, to proceed directly home.  But the
artist element in him became more and more awakened, as, day after day,
he studied the world-renowned treasures all about him, until he
suddenly conceived the idea of making art his profession and life work;
whereupon, he impulsively registered himself for a course in oils,
under a popular artist and teacher, Monsieur Jacques by name.

Helen would have preferred to return to her parents, for she yearned
for familiar scenes, and particularly for her mother at this time; but
she yielded her will to her husband's, and they made a pretty home for
themselves in an attractive suburb of Paris, where, a little later,
there came to the young wife, in her exile--for such it almost seemed
to her--a great joy.

A little daughter, the Dorothy of our opening chapter, was born to John
and Helen Hungerford a few weeks after the anniversary of their
marriage; and, being still deeply in love with each other, it seemed to
them as if their cup of happiness was filled to the brim.

Shortly afterward, however, with only a few days between the two sad
events, cable messages brought the heartbreaking tidings that Helen's
father and mother had both been taken from her, and the blow, for the
time, seemed likely to crush her.

John, in his sympathy for his wife, was for immediately throwing up his
work, and taking her directly home; but Helen, more practical and less
impulsive than her husband, reasoned that there was nothing to be
gained by such a rash move, while much would have to be sacrificed in
forfeiting his course of lessons, which had been paid for in advance;
while she feared that such an interruption would greatly abate his
enthusiasm, if it did not wholly discourage him from the task of
perfecting himself in his studies.

She knew that her father's lawyer, who had been his adviser for many
years, was amply qualified to settle Mr. Appleton's business; and,
having unbounded confidence in him, she felt that whatever would be
required of her could be done as well by correspondence as by her
personal presence.  Consequently it was decided best to remain where
they were until John should become well grounded in his profession, and
able to get on without a teacher.

But when Mr. Appleton's affairs were settled it was learned that the
scant sum of five thousand dollars was all that his daughter would
inherit from his estate.  This unlooked-for misfortune was a great
surprise to the young husband and wife; a bitter disappointment, also,
particularly to John Hungerford, who had imagined, when he married her,
that Helen would inherit quite a fortune from her father, who, it was
generally believed, had amassed a handsome property.

Helen very wisely decided that the five thousand dollars must be put
aside for Dorothy's future education, and she directed the lawyer to
invest the money for the child, as his best judgment dictated, and
allow the interest to accumulate until they returned to America.

Three years slipped swiftly by after this, and during this time John,
who seemed really to love his work, gave promise of attaining
proficiency, if not fame, in his profession.  At least, Monsieur
Jacques, who appeared to take a deep interest in his student's
progress, encouraged him to believe he could achieve something worth
while in the future, provided he applied himself diligently to that end.

Helen, though chastened and still grieving sorely over the loss of her
parents, was happy and content to live very quietly, keeping only one
servant, and herself acting the part of nurse for Dorothy.  Before her
marriage she had supposed John to be the possessor of considerable
wealth, and this belief had been confirmed during their first year
abroad by his lavish expenditure.  He had spared no expense to
contribute to her pleasure, had showered expensive gifts upon her, and
gratified every whim of his own.  But when her father's estate had been
settled he had betrayed deep disappointment and no little anxiety in
view of the small amount coming to Helen; and it had finally come out
that his own fortune had been a very moderate one, the greater portion
of which had been consumed during their extravagant honeymoon.

This startling revelation set Helen to thinking very seriously.  She
realized that the limited sum remaining to them would have to be
carefully husbanded, or they would soon reach the end of their
resources.  John's studies were expensive, and it might be some time
yet before he could expect to realize from his profession an income
that could be depended upon, while, never yet having denied himself
anything he wanted, he had no practical idea of economy.

At length he sold a few small pictures, which, with some help in
touching up from monsieur, were very creditable to him.  But instead of
being elated that his work was beginning to attract attention and be
appreciated, he was greatly chagrined at the prices he received for
them, and allowed himself to become somewhat discouraged in view of
these small returns; and, during his fourth year, it became evident
that his interest was waning, and he was growing weary of his work.

He had never been a systematic worker, much to the annoyance of his
teacher, who was rigidly methodical and painstaking in every detail.
John would begin a subject which gave promise of being above the
ordinary, and work well upon it for a while; but after a little it
would pall upon his fancy, and be set aside to try something else,
while Monsieur Jacques would look on with grave disapproval, and often
sharply criticize such desultory efforts.  This, of course, caused
strained relations between teacher and student, and conditions drifted
from bad to worse, until he began to absent himself from the studio; at
first for only a day in the week; then, as time went on, he grew more
and more irregular, and sometimes several days would elapse during
which he would do nothing at his easel, while no one seemed to know
where, or with whom, he was spending his time.

Monsieur Jacques was very forbearing.  He knew the young man possessed
rare talent, if not real genius; he believed there was the promise of a
great artist in him, and he was ambitious to have him make his mark in
the world.  He was puzzled by his peculiar moods and behavior, and
strove in various ways to arouse his waning enthusiasm.  He knew
nothing of his circumstances, except that he had a lovely wife and
child, of whom he appeared to be very fond and proud, and he believed
him to be possessed of ample means, for he spent money freely upon
himself and his fellow students, with whom he was exceedingly popular;
hence he was wholly unable to account for his growing indifference and
indolence, unless there were some secret, subtle influence that was
leading him astray--beguiling him from his high calling.

Two years more passed thus, and still he had made no practical
advancement.  He worked by fits and starts, but rarely completed and
sold anything, even though everything he attempted was, as far as
developed, alive with brilliant possibilities.

Helen had also realized, during this time, that something was very
wrong with her husband.  He was often away from home during the
evening, and had little to say when she questioned him regarding his
absence; sometimes he told her he had been at the theater with the
boys, or he had been bowling at the club, or having a game of whist at
the studio.

She was very patient; she believed in him thoroughly, and not a
suspicion arose in her loyal heart that he would tell her a falsehood
to conceal any wrongdoing on his part.

But one night he did not return at all; at least, it was early morning
before he came in, and, not wishing to disturb his wife, he threw
himself, half dressed, upon the couch in the library, where Helen found
him, in a deep sleep, when she came downstairs in the morning.  She
appeared relieved on seeing him, and stood for a minute or two
curiously searching his face, noting how weary and haggard he looked
after his night of evident dissipation, while the odor of wine was
plainly perceptible in his heavy breathing.

Her heart was very sore, but she was careful not to wake him, for she
felt he needed to sleep, and she presently moved away from him,
gathering up the light overcoat he had worn the previous evening, and
which he had heedlessly thrown in a heap upon a chair on removing it.
She gently shook out the wrinkles, preparatory to putting the garment
away in its place, when something bright, hanging from an inner pocket,
caught her eye.

With the color fading from her face, she drew it forth and gazed at it
as one dazed.

It was a long, silken, rose-hued glove, that exhaled a faint odor of
attar of roses as it slipped from its hiding place.  It was almost new,
yet the shape of the small hand that had worn it was plainly
discernible, while on one of the rounded finger tips there was a slight
stain, like a drop of wine.

To whom did the dainty thing belong?  How had it come into her
husband's possession?  Had it been lost by some one returning from a
ball, or the opera, and simply been found by him?  Or had it some more
significant connection with the late hours and carousal of the previous
night and of many other nights?

A hundred questions and cruel suspicions flashed thick and fast through
her mind and stung her to the quick, as she recalled the many evenings
he had spent away from her of late, and his evasive replies whenever
she had questioned him regarding his whereabouts.

She shivered as she stood there, almost breathless, with that creepy,
slippery thing that seemed almost alive, and a silent, mocking witness
to some tantalizing mystery, in her hand.

What should she do about it?  Should she wake John, show him what she
had found, and demand an explanation from him?  Or would it be wiser to
return the glove to its place of concealment, say nothing, and bide her
time for further developments?

She had never been a dissembler.  As a girl, she was artless and
confiding, winning and keeping friends by her innate sincerity.  As a
wife, she had been absolutely loyal and trustful--never before having
entertained the slightest doubt of her husband's faithfulness to her.
Could she now begin to lead a double life, begin to be suspicious of
John, to institute a system of espionage upon his actions and pursuits,
and thus create an ever-increasing barrier between them?  The thought
was utterly repulsive to her, and yet it might perhaps be as well not
to force, for a time, at least, a situation which perchance would ere
long be unfolded to her without friction or estrangement.

She glanced from the rose-hued thing in her hand to the sleeper on the
couch, stood thoughtfully studying his face for a moment; then she
silently slipped the glove into the pocket where she had found it,
dropped the coat back in a heap upon the chair, and stole noiselessly
from the room.



CHAPTER IV.

A YOUNG WIFE'S BRAVE STRUGGLES.

Another year slipped by, with no change for the better in the domestic
conditions of the Hungerfords.  When he felt like it, John would work
at his easel; when he did not, he would dawdle his time away at his
club, or about town, with companions whom, Helen began to realize, were
of no advantage to him, to say the least.  Meantime, his money was fast
melting away, and there seemed to be no prospect of a reliable income
from his art.

Helen became more and more anxious regarding their future, and often
implored her husband to finish some of his pictures, try to get them
hung at different exhibitions, and in this way perhaps find a market
for them.

He was never really unkind to her, though often irritable; yet he was
far from being the devoted husband he had been during the first three
or four years of their married life.  He would often make fair promises
to do better, and perhaps work well for a while; then, his interest
flagging again, he would drop back into his indolent ways, and go on as
before.

One morning, just as he was leaving the house, John informed his wife
that he was going, with several other artists, to visit a noted château
a few miles out of Paris, where there was a wonderful collection of
paintings, comprising several schools of art, some of the oldest and
best masters being represented; and the owner of these treasures, the
Duc de Mouvel, had kindly given them permission to examine them and
take notes at their leisure.  It was a rare opportunity, he told her,
and she was not to be anxious about him if he did not reach home until
late in the evening.

Helen was quite elated by this information; it seemed to indicate that
John still loved his art, and she hoped that his enthusiasm would be
newly aroused by this opportunity to study such priceless pictures, and
he would resume his work with fresh zeal upon his return.

She was very happy during the day, refreshing herself with these
sanguine hopes, and did not even feel troubled that John did not come
back at all that night.  The owner of the château had probably extended
his hospitality, and given the students another day to study his
pictures, she thought.

The third day dawned, and still her husband had not returned; neither
had he sent her any message explaining his protracted absence.

Unable longer to endure the suspense, Helen went in town, to the
studio, hoping that Monsieur Jacques might be able to give her some
information regarding the expedition to the Château de Mouvel.

But her heart sank the moment she came into the artist's presence.

He greeted her most cordially, but searched her face curiously; then
gravely inquired:

"And where is Monsieur Hungerford, madame?  I hope not ill?  For a week
now his brushes they have been lying idle."

"A week!" repeated Helen, with an inward shock of dismay.  "Then,
Monsieur Jacques, you know nothing about the excursion to the château
of le Duc de Mouvel?"

"Excursion to the galleries of le Duc de Mouvel!" exclaimed the artist,
astonished.  "But surely I know nothing of such a visit--no, madame."

Helen explained more at length, and mentioned the names of some of
those whom John had said were to be of the party.

Her companion's brow contracted in a frown of mingled sorrow and
displeasure.

"I know nothing of it," he reiterated; "and the persons madame has
named are dilettante--they are 'no good,' as you say in America.  They
waste time--they have a love for wine, women, and frolic; and it is
regrettable that monsieur finds pleasure in their company."

Helen sighed; her heart was very heavy.

"Monsieur is one natural artist," the master resumed, bending a
compassionate gaze on her white face; "born with talent and the love of
art.  He has the true eye for color, outline, perspective; the free,
steady, skillful hand.  He would do great work with the stable mind,
but--pardon, madame--he is what, in English, you call--lazy.  He will
not exercise the necessary application.  To make the great artist there
must be more, much more, than mere talent, the love of the beautiful,
and skillful wielding of the brush; there must be the will to work,
work, work.  Ah, if madame could but inspire monsieur with
ambition--real enthusiasm--to accomplish something, to finish his
pictures, he might yet win fame for himself; but the indifference, the
indolence, the lack of moral responsibility, and the love of
pleasure--ah, it all means failure!"

"But--the Duc de Mouvel--is there such a man?  Has he a rare
collection?" faltered Helen, thus betraying her suspicion that her
husband had deceived her altogether regarding the motive of his absence.

"Yes, my child; I have the great pleasure of acquaintance with le Duc
de Mouvel," kindly returned Monsieur Jacques, adding: "He is a great
connoisseur in, and a generous patron of, all that is best in art; and
if he has extended to your husband and his friends an invitation to
view the wonderful pictures in his magnificent château at ---- they
have been granted a rare honor and privilege."

In her heart, Helen doubted that they had ever been the recipients of
such an invitation; she believed it all a fabrication to deceive her
and perhaps others.  It was a humiliating suspicion; but it forced
itself upon her and thrust its venomed sting deep into her soul.

"If there is anything I can do for madame at any time, I trust she will
not fail to command me," Monsieur Jacques observed, with gentle
courtesy, and breaking in upon the troubled reverie into which she had
fallen.

Helen lifted her sad eyes to his.

"I thank you, monsieur," she gratefully returned.  "You are--you always
have been--most kind and patient."  Then, glancing searchingly around
the room, the walls of which were covered with beautiful paintings, she
inquired: "Are there any of Mr. Hungerford's pictures here?"

"Ah!  Madame would like to see some of the work monsieur has been doing
of late?" said the artist alertly, and glad to change the subject, for
he saw that his proffered kindness had well-nigh robbed her of her
composure.  "Come this way, if you please, and I will show you," he
added, turning to leave the room.

He led her through a passage to a small room in the rear of the one
they had just left; and, some one coming to speak to him just then,
excusing himself, he left her there to look about at her leisure.

This was evidently John's private workroom; but it was in a very dusty
and untidy condition, and Helen was appalled to see the many unfinished
subjects which were standing against the walls, in the windows, and
even upon chairs.  Some were only just begun; others were well under
way, and it would have required but little time and effort to have
completed them and made them salable.

She moved slowly about the place, pausing here and there to study
various things that appealed to her, and at the same time recognizing
the unmistakable talent that was apparent in almost every stroke of the
brush.

At length she came to a small easel that had been pushed close into a
corner.  There was a canvas resting on it, with its face turned to the
wall, and curiosity prompted her to reverse it to ascertain the
subject, when a cry of surprise broke from her lips as she found
herself gazing upon the unfinished portrait of a most beautiful woman.

John had never seemed to care to do portraits--they were uninteresting,
he had always said--and she had never known of his attempting one
before; hence her astonishment.

The figure had been painted full length.  It was slight, but perfect in
its proportions; the pose exceedingly graceful and natural, the
features delicate, the coloring exquisite.  The eyes were a deep blue,
arch and coquettish in expression; the hair a glossy, waving brown, a
few bewitching locks falling softly on the white forehead, beneath a
great picture hat.  The costume was an evening gown of black spangled
net, made _décoletté_, and with only an elaborate band of jet over the
shoulders, the bare neck and beautifully molded arms making an
effective contrast against the glittering, coal-black dress.

The girl was standing by a small oval table, one hand resting lightly
upon it, the other hanging by her side, and loosely holding a pair of
long silken gloves.

Helen's face flooded crimson as her glance fell upon the gloves.  Even
though they were black, they were startlingly suggestive to her, and
her thought instantly reverted to the one, so bright-hued, which she
had found in the inner pocket of her husband's overcoat some months
previous.

Had she to-day inadvertently stumbled upon the solution of that mystery
which had never ceased to rankle, with exceeding bitterness, in her
heart from that day to this?

There was still much to be done before the picture would be finished,
though it was a good deal further along than most of its companions.
Enough had been accomplished, however, to show that there had been no
lack of interest on the part of the artist while at work upon it.

Who was she--this blue-eyed, brown-haired siren in glittering black?
When and where had the portrait been painted?  Had the woman come
there, to John's room, for sittings?  Or was she some one whom he met
often, and had painted from memory?  Helen did not believe she could be
a model; there was too much about her that hinted at high life, and of
habitual association with the fashionable world--possibly of the stage.

She stood a long time before the easel, studying every line of the
lovely face until she found that, with all its beauty, there was a
suggestion of craftiness and even cruelty in the dark-blue eyes and in
the lines about the mouth and sensuous chin.

A step behind her caused Helen to start and turn quickly, to find
Monsieur Jacques almost beside her, his eyes fastened intently, and in
unmistakable surprise, upon the picture she had discovered.

"Who is she?" she demanded, almost sharply, and voicing the query she
had just put to herself.

"Madame, I have never before looked upon the picture--I did not even
know that Monsieur Hungerford had attempted a portrait," gravely
returned the artist.  "It is finely done, however," he added
approvingly.

"Has no woman been here for sittings?"

"No, madame; no one except our own models--I am sure not.  That is not
allowed in my studio without my sanction and supervision," was the
reply.  "It may be simply a study, original with monsieur; if so, it is
very beautiful, and holds great promise," the man concluded, with
hearty appreciation.

Helen replaced the portrait as she had found it, somewhat comforted by
her companion's assurance and high praise of her husband's effort; then
she turned to leave the room.

"I thank you, monsieur, for your courtesy," she said, holding out to
him a hand that trembled visibly from inward excitement.

"Pray do not mention it, but come again, my child, whenever I can be of
service to you.  _Au revoir_," he responded kindly, as he accompanied
her to the door and bowed her out.

Helen went home with a heavy heart.  She was well-nigh discouraged with
what she had heard and seen.  She had long suspected, and she was now
beginning to realize, that her husband's chief aim in life was personal
entertainment and love of ease; that he was sadly lacking in force of
character, practical application, and moral responsibility; caring more
about being rated a jolly good fellow by his boon companions than for
his duties as a husband and father, or for attaining fame in his
profession.

Thus she spent a very unhappy day, haunted continually by that
portrait, and brooding anxiously over what the future might hold for
them; while, at the same time, she was both indignant and keenly
wounded in view of John's improvidence, prodigality, and supreme
selfishness, and of his apparent indifference to her peace of mind and
the additional burdens he was constantly imposing upon her.

John returned that evening, in a most genial mood.  He made light of
his protracted absence and of Helen's anxiety on account of it, but
offered no apologies for keeping her in suspense for so long.  He
briefly remarked that the party had concluded to extend their tour, and
make more of an outing than they had at first planned.  It had
evidently been a very enjoyable one, although he did not go into detail
at all, and when Helen inquired about the Duc de Mouvel's wonderful
collection of paintings, he appeared somewhat confused, but said they
were "grand, remarkable, and absolutely priceless!" then suddenly
changed the subject.

Helen's suspicion that the party had never been inside the Château de
Mouvel was confirmed by his manner; but she was too hurt and proud to
question him further, and so did not pursue the subject.  She thought
it only right, however, to tell him of her visit to Monsieur Jacques,
and what the artist had said about his talent, and the flattering
possibilities before him, if he would conscientiously devote himself to
his work.  She referred to his disapproval of his present course, and
the company he was keeping; whereupon John became exceedingly angry, in
view of her "meddling," as he termed it; said Monsieur Jacques would do
better to give more attention to his own affairs, and less to his;
then, refusing to discuss the situation further, he abruptly left the
room in a very sulky frame of mind.

Helen had debated with herself as to the advisability of telling him of
her discovery of the portrait.  She did not like to conceal anything
from her husband.  She felt that every such attempt only served to
establish a more formidable barrier between them; but after the
experience of to-night she thought it would be wiser not to refer to
the matter--at least until later.

John evidently did some thinking on his own part that night, for he was
more like his former self when he appeared at breakfast the next
morning, and proceeded directly to the studio on leaving the house.  He
did better for a couple of months afterward, manifested more interest
in his work, and finished a couple of pictures, which, through the
influence of Monsieur Jacques, were hung at an exhibition and sold at
fair prices, greatly to Helen's joy.

But instead of being inspired to even greater effort by this success,
John seemed content to rest upon his honors, and soon began to lapse
again into his former indolent ways, apparently indifferent to the fact
that his money was almost gone, and poverty staring himself and his
family in the face.

Long before this, Helen had given up her maid, had practiced economy in
every possible way, and denied herself many things which she had always
regarded as necessary to her comfort.  But the more she gave up, the
more John appeared to expect her to give up; the harder she worked, the
less he seemed to think he was obliged to do himself.  Thus, with her
domestic duties, her sewing, and the care of Dorothy, every moment of
the day, from the hour of rising until she retired at night, the young
wife was heavily burdened with toilsome and unaccustomed duties.

It was a bitter experience for this delicately nurtured girl, but no
word of repining ever escaped her lips.  She had pledged herself to
John "for better or worse," and, despite the unremitting strain upon
her courage, patience, and strength, despite her increasing
disappointment in and constantly waning respect for her husband, she
had no thought but to loyally abide by her choice, and share his lot,
whatever it might be.

The day came, however, when John himself awoke to the fact that he had
about reached the end of his rope--when he was startled to find that
less than two hundred dollars remained to his credit in the bank, and
poverty treading close upon his heels.  He knew he could no longer go
on in this desultory way; something radical must be done, and done at
once.  He was tired of his art; he was tired of facing, day after day,
Monsieur Jacques' grave yet well-deserved disapproval; while, for some
reason, he had become weary of Paris, and, one morning, to Helen's
great joy--for she believed it the best course to pursue--he suddenly
announced his intention to return to the United States.

They sublet their house, and were fortunate in selling their furniture,
just as it stood, to the new tenant, thus realizing sufficient funds,
with what money they already possessed, to comfortably defray all
expenses back to San Francisco, which had been their former home, and
to which Helen had firmly insisted upon returning, although John had
voiced a decided preference for New York.

"No, I am going home--to my friends," she reiterated, but with her
throat swelling painfully as she thought she would find no father and
mother there to greet her.  "I have lived in exile long enough; I
need--I am hungry to see familiar faces."

"But----" John began, with a rising flush.

"Yes, I know, we are going back poor," said his wife, reading his
thought as he hesitated; "but my real friends will not think any the
less of me for that, and they will be a comfort to me.  Besides, all
the furniture of my old home is stored there, and it will be useful to
us in beginning life again."

During the voyage Helen seemed happier than she had been for months.
The freedom from household cares and drudgery was a great boon to her,
and the rest, salt air, and change of food were doing her good; while
the anticipation of once more being among familiar scenes and faces was
cheering, even exhilarating, to her.

To Dorothy the ocean was a great marvel and delight, and it was a
pleasant sight to see the beautiful mother and her attractive little
daughter pacing the deck together, enjoying the novelty of their
surroundings, watching the white-capped waves, or the foaming trail in
the wake of the huge vessel, their bright faces and happy laughter
attracting the attention of many an appreciative observer.

John, on the contrary, was listless and moody, spending his time mostly
in reading, smoking, and sleeping in his steamer chair, apparently
taking little interest in anything that was going on about him, or
giving much thought to what was before him at his journey's end.

One morning Helen came on deck with two or three recent magazines,
which a chance acquaintance had loaned her.  She handed two of them to
her husband, and, tucking herself snugly into her own chair, proceeded
to look over the other, with Dorothy standing beside her to see the
pictures.

By and by the child ran away to play, and Helen became interested in a
story.  A half hour passed, and she had become deeply interested in the
tale she was reading, when she was startled by a smothered exclamation
from John.

She glanced at him, to find him gazing intently at a picture in one of
the magazines she had given him.  The man's face was all aglow with
admiration and pleased surprise, and she noted that the hand which held
the periodical trembled from some inward emotion.

Wondering what could have moved him so, yet feeling unaccountably
reluctant to question him, she appeared not to notice his excitement,
and composedly went on with her reading.  Presently he arose, saying he
was going aft for a smoke, and left her alone; but, to her great
disappointment, taking the magazine with him.

Later in the day, on going to their stateroom, however, she found it in
his berth, tucked under his pillow!

Eagerly seizing it, she began to search it through, when suddenly, on
turning a leaf, a great shock went quivering through her, for there on
the page before her was the picture of a woman, the exact counterpart
of the half-finished portrait she had seen in John's work-room during
her visit to Monsieur Jacques.

Like a flash, her eyes dropped to the name beneath it.

"Marie Duncan, with the Wells Opera Company, now in Australia," was
what she read.

On the opposite page was a brief account of the troupe and the musical
comedy, which, during the past season, had had an unprecedented run in
Paris, and was now making a great hit in Melbourne, Miss Duncan, the
star, literally taking the public by storm.

"Well, _that_ mystery is finally solved!  And doubtless she was the
owner of that pink glove, also," mused Helen, her lips curling with
fine scorn, as she studied the fascinating face before her.  "Thank
fortune," she presently added, with a sigh of thankfulness, as she
closed the book and replaced it under the pillow, "she is away in
Australia, and we are every day increasing the distance between us."

She kept her own counsel, however, and gave no sign of the discovery
she had made.

The day preceding their landing in New York, Helen asked her husband
what plans he had made for their future, how he expected to provide for
their support upon reaching San Francisco.

"Oh, I don't know!" he replied, somewhat irritably.  "Possibly I may
ask Uncle Nathan to give me a position in his office."

"And give up your art, John!" exclaimed Helen, in a voice of dismay,
adding: "You are better fitted for that than for anything else."

"But I shall have to do something to get a start.  You know, it takes
money to live while one is painting pictures," he moodily returned.

"But it would not take very long to finish up some of them--the best
ones; and I feel sure they would sell readily," said his wife.

"The best ones would require the help of a good teacher, or an expert
artist, to complete," her husband curtly replied.

Helen sighed regretfully over the time which had been so wantonly
wasted in Paris, and during which, under the skillful supervision of
Monsieur Jacques, he might have finished much of his work, and at the
same time perfected himself upon many important points.  She preserved
a thoughtful silence for several moments; then gravely inquired:

"Do you suppose, John, that, with another year of study, with some good
teacher, you could finish and dispose of the various subjects you have
begun?"

"Possibly I might," he briefly observed, but there was very little
enthusiasm in his tone or manner.

"Do you feel in the mood?  Have you any ambition for honest,
painstaking effort--for hard work, John, to attempt this under a
first-class artist?" Helen persisted.

The man began to grow restive; he could never bear to be pinned down to
committing himself to anything, or to yield a point.

"You have no idea, Helen, what a grind it is to sit before an easel day
after day, and wield a brush," he said, in an injured tone, and with a
frown of annoyance.

"Everything is a grind unless you put your heart into your work--unless
one is governed by principle and a sense of moral responsibility," said
Helen gravely.

"Is that the way you have baked and brewed, washed dishes and made beds
the past year?" queried her husband, with a covert sneer.

"I certainly never baked and brewed, or washed dishes, solely from love
of the work," she quietly but significantly replied, as her glance
rested upon her wrist, where a faint scar was visible--the fading
reminder of a serious burn sustained when she first began her
unaccustomed duties as cook and maid of all work.

John observed it also, then quickly looked away, as he remembered that
she had never murmured or neglected a single duty on account of it.

"But where is the money for a teacher coming from?" he inquired, after
a moment, and referring to Helen's unanswered question regarding his
unfinished work.

"You know Dorothy's money has been accumulating all these years," she
began in reply.  "The interest now amounts to upward of fifteen hundred
dollars, and I will consent to use it for this purpose, if you will
agree to do your level best to make your unfinished pictures marketable
during the coming year."

Her husband flushed hotly--not because he experienced either gratitude
or a sense of shame in view of becoming dependent upon his wife's
bounty, but because it angered him to have conditions made for him.

He appeared to be utterly devoid of ambition for his future, and
Helen's suggestion possessed no real attraction for him.  Painting had
become a bore--the last thing he had really taken any interest in
having been the portrait his wife had discovered in his studio just
previous to the sailing of its original for Australia.

John Hungerford had never performed a day's manual labor in his life,
and even though he had said he might ask his uncle for a position on
his arrival in San Francisco, he had no relish for the prospect of
buckling down to a humdrum routine of duties in Nathan Young's
flourishing manufactory.

He sat chewing the cud of sullen discontent for some time, while
considering the situation, and finally gave Helen a half-hearted
promise to stick to his art, under a teacher, for another year.  But
his consent had been so reluctantly given, his manner was so
indifferent, Helen felt that she had received very little encouragement
to warrant that the future would show any better results than the past,
and the outlook seemed rather dark to her.



CHAPTER V.

FLUCTUATING EXPERIENCES.

Upon their arrival in San Francisco, the Hungerfords took a small
apartment in a quiet but good location, where Helen felt she could ask
her friends, and they would not hesitate to come to see her.

This she tastefully fitted up with some of the simplest of her old-home
furniture, which her father's lifelong friend and lawyer had carefully
stored for her against her return.  The more expensive pieces, with
some massive, valuable silver, and choice bric-a-brac that Mr. Appleton
had purchased to embellish the beautiful new residence which he had
built a few years previous to his death--these extravagances having
really been the beginning of his undoing--she sold, thus realizing
several hundred dollars, which would go far, with careful management,
toward tiding over the interval during which John was working to turn
his paintings into money.

As yet Dorothy had never attended school, Helen having systematically
taught her at home; but the child was bright and quick to learn, and
was fully up to the standard with, if not in advance of, girls of her
own age.  She could speak French like a Parisian, and her mother had
also given her excellent training in music.

Helen, thus far, had been very wise in her management of Dorothy.
Profiting by the mistakes which she realized her own indulgent parents
had made in rearing herself, as well as by the faults she had detected
in her husband's character, she had determined that her daughter should
not suffer in the future, along the same lines, for lack of careful
discipline.  At the same time, she by no means made her government
irksome; indeed, it never seemed to the child that she was being
governed, for the companionship between them was so close and tender
that she fell naturally into her mother's way of thinking, and seldom
rebelled against her authority, even though she was by no means devoid
of spirit or a mind of her own.

Now, however, feeling that Dorothy needed a wider horizon, with
different environment and training, as she pursued her education, her
mother decided to put her into the public school.

This would relieve Helen of much care, and also give her more time to
take up a systematic course of piano and voice culture, which she had
determined to do, with the view of turning her talent for music to some
practical purpose, at least until her husband was better equipped to
provide suitably for his family.

She had been cordially received on her return by most of her old
friends, even though she had made no secret of the change in her
circumstances.  She had been a great favorite before her marriage, and
her family highly respected; hence her reverses did not now appear to
affect her social standing, at least among those who knew her best.

Very grateful and happy in view of this proof of real friendship, Helen
was encouraged to quietly seek pupils in music, and easily secured a
class of ten, which were all she felt she could do justice to with her
domestic duties and other cares.

She felt very independent and not a little proud of the money thus
earned, while she found it a great help in meeting the many expenses of
her household.

During the first year after their return from abroad, John also worked
well.  He liked his teacher--a German, who had studied many years in
Italy--who spoke in high praise of his talent, as well as of the
thoroughness of the instruction he had received from Monsieur Jacques,
all of which was apparent in his beautiful but unfinished work, he said.

Although Herr Von Meyer was not permanently located in San Francisco,
his work had become popular, and he had quite a large following as
students.  He might almost have been called an itinerant artist, for he
had traveled extensively in the United States and Canada, stopping for
a longer or shorter time, as his fancy dictated, in numerous places,
painting and sketching American life and scenery.  He was now planning
to return to his own country at the end of another year, to again take
up work in his own studio in Berlin.

It was, therefore, a rare opportunity for John to have found so
talented a teacher just at this time; and, under his supervision, he
completed and disposed of a goodly number of his paintings.  Some of
these were so well appreciated that he received orders to duplicate
them, and the future looked promising.

This success so elated and encouraged him that at the end of a year he
concluded he was now competent to do business for himself without
further assistance or instruction.  Accordingly, he hired some rooms,
furnished them attractively, and launched out upon an independent
career with something like real enthusiasm.

For a time all went well; more pictures were painted and sold, bringing
good prices; while, after the departure of Herr Von Meyer, students
began to flock to him.  Young Hungerford, the artist, was beginning to
be talked about in society and at the various clubs; he was also much
sought after and admired in fashionable circles; his studio became a
favorite resort for people interested in art, and here John shone a
bright particular star.

Helen became happy in proportion to her husband's advancement; she grew
radiant with health; the lines of care and worry all faded out of her
face; she was like a light-hearted girl, and John told her she was
prettier than ever.

It was almost too good to be true, she sometimes said to herself, as
she remembered the sad conditions that had prevailed while they were in
Paris.  But she would not allow herself to dwell upon those unhappy
experiences; the present was full of hope and promise, and she firmly
believed that her husband's fame and fortune were assured.

Had John Hungerford possessed "the stable mind," as Monsieur Jacques
once expressed it, all must have gone well; if he had been less
egotistical, selfish, and vain, more persevering and practical; had he
not been naturally so indolent--"lazy," to quote his former teacher
again--and pleasure-loving, he might have risen rapidly, and maintained
his position.

But, as time wore on, and the novelty of his popularity and prosperity
began to pall upon him; as the demands upon his patience became
greater, and the supervision of students required more concentration
and attention to detail; as the filling of increasing orders for his
own work made it necessary to stick closer to his easel, day after day,
life began to seem "a grind" again.

He grew discontented, irritable, restless.  He lost patience with his
students, and became indifferent to his duty to them, until they began
to be disaffected, and dropped away from him.  He neglected orders
until his patrons became angry and withdrew them, and finally, becoming
dissatisfied with his own work, he dropped back into his old habit of
starting subject after subject, only to set them aside to try something
else, rarely completing anything; all of which tended toward the ruin
of his once prosperous business, as well as his reputation as an artist.

All this came about so gradually that, for a long time, no one save
Helen suspected how matters were going.  She begged him to wake up and
renew his efforts, both for her sake and Dorothy's, as well as for his
own; and she encouraged him in every possible way.  But nothing that
she could say or do served to arouse him from the mental and moral
lethargy that possessed and grew upon him.

Fortunately, in spite of their recent prosperity, Helen had retained
her pupils in music, more because of her love for the work than because
she felt the need of money, as at first.  Thus, when her husband's
income began to fall off, she dropped, little by little, into the way
of sharing the household expenses from her own earnings, and so assumed
burdens which he should have borne himself.

As month succeeded month, things continued to grow worse, until rumors
of the truth got afloat, and his friends and patrons began to show
their disapproval of his downward course, and even to shun his society.

Yet these significant omens did not serve to arouse him.  On the
contrary, his indifference and indolence increased, and his old love
for wandering returned; his studio would frequently be closed for days,
sometimes for weeks, at a time, and only his boon companions knew where
he could be found.

Helen regarded these evidences of deterioration with a sinking heart,
yet tried to be patient.  She did not complain, even when their funds
ran very low, but cheerfully supplied the needs of the family, and
bravely tried to fortify herself with the hope that John could not long
remain oblivious to his responsibilities, and would eventually retrieve
himself.

During all this time she had been making splendid progress in her own
musical training--especially in the cultivation of her voice.  She had
often given her services in behalf of charitable entertainments, and
not infrequently assisted her friends to entertain by singing a
charming group of songs at parties and receptions; thus she had gained
for herself the reputation of being a most pleasing vocalist.

Recently these same friends, who sympathized with her domestic trials,
and, recognizing her financial difficulties, had arranged for several
musical functions, asking her to superintend them, and had paid her
liberally for her services.

This new departure seemed to Helen like the pointing of Providence to a
more promising future, by making her entirely independent of her
husband, and it would also enable her to give Dorothy advantages which
she could never hope--judging from present indications--to receive from
her father.  Accordingly, she immediately issued attractive cards,
advertising to provide musical entertainment for clubs, receptions, or
social functions of any kind.

It was somewhat late in the season when she conceived this project, and
she secured only a limited number of engagements; but as she gained
fresh laurels and had delighted her patrons in every instance, she
believed she had paved the way for a good business by the following
fall.

During the month of May of this year John began to talk of going out of
town for the summer.

"We cannot afford it," Helen objected.  "My pupils will leave me in
June, and will not return to me until September, and we must not spend
the money it would cost for such an outing."

"But you need a change, as well as I, and--and some of--of Dorothy's
money would be well spent in giving us all a good vacation," her
husband argued.

"That money is not to be touched," said Helen firmly.  "That is
sacredly devoted to a college course for her as soon as she leaves the
high school.  Dorothy and I are perfectly well; we have more comforts
at home than we could find elsewhere without paying an extravagant
price, and, with a short trip now and then, to some point of interest,
we can manage to be very happy without going away."

"We could go into the mountains, and camp out--that wouldn't cost very
much," John persisted.

"Camp out!" Helen exclaimed, astonished.  "And where would we get our
meals?  You know very well that Hannah would not put up with the poor
accommodations of any camp."

"Oh, dismiss Hannah for a couple of months!  We could get our own
meals, and make them as simple as we chose," her husband suggested.

Helen smiled wanly.  She wondered what he meant by simple meals, for he
was, as a rule, very particular what he had to eat and how it was
cooked.  She realized that such a move would result in simply making
her a drudge, under very uncomfortable conditions, for the summer; she
would lose a good maid, and be in no way refreshed on her return to
town.

"I think it would be very unwise," she gravely returned; "such an
outing as that would have no rest or attraction for me; besides, I had
planned to work diligently at my music during the next three months, to
prepare for the winter."

John was not at all pleased with this decided rejection of his
proposition, as a protracted and sullen silence plainly indicated.

"Well, _I_ am not willing to swelter in the hot city during the next
three months, if you are," heat length burst forth, "and I want a
change."

"Oh, John, you ought to stay right here, and go to work for your
family," said his wife, with a note of appeal in her tremulous tones.
"We have hardly money enough left to pay our bills until fall, as it
is."

"I tell you I will not!" he said crossly, adding: "You can, of course,
do as you choose.  If you and Dorothy will not go with me, I'll turn
Bohemian, take my kit along, and make sketches for work when I return."

Helen knew it would be useless to oppose him, so said no more.  All the
same, judging from the past, she had little faith that his sketching
would amount to much, and so when June opened she saw him depart with a
heavy heart.

She received brief letters from him from time to time; but he told her
very little of what he was doing.  His chief desire seemed to be to let
her know where her letters and remittances would reach him.

He returned in September, to find his wife and child blooming and
happy.  It was evident that they had enjoyed the summer far better than
he, for he appeared jaded and spiritless, while he had very little to
produce as material for the coming winter's work--a few rough sketches,
carelessly done, were all he had to show.

Helen, however, had worked to good purpose.  Her voice was in splendid
condition.  She had added several choice selections to her repertoire;
while Dorothy showed marked improvement upon the piano, and had learned
to accompany her mother very effectively in some of her simpler songs.
But it had not been all work and no play with them.  They went out
somewhere every fine day.  They had little picnics to the park; they
had sails upon the bay, sometimes visiting a popular resort; and once
an old friend of Helen's asked them, for a week, to her summer home, a
few miles out of the city.  Dorothy was perfectly satisfied, even
though most of her school friends were away, and once remarked to a
friend who called upon them: "Mamma and I do have just the nicest times
together; it's great fun to go about with her."

John had very little to say relative to his own vacation, or the
companions with whom he had spent it; he certainly gave no sign of
renewed vigor, and showed no inclination to take up his long-neglected
painting; but Helen asked no questions, made no comments or criticisms.
Neither did she manifest either surprise or disapproval when he came in
one day, a month after his return, and informed her that he had given
up his studio and accepted a position in his Uncle Nathan's
establishment.

"Painting pictures, as a business, is fluctuating, monotonous,
unsatisfactory," he said.  "He believed it would be far better to have
a salary, on which he could depend."

Helen sighed for the money that had been wasted in rent for the studio
during the summer; also for the rejected art for which John possessed
talent, if not genius.  But he lacked force, he hated personal
responsibility, as well as work, and perhaps the salary, even though it
was to be a moderate sum for the first year, would be better.  The
monthly payments from Mr. Young could be relied upon, and thus her own
burdens would be somewhat lightened.



CHAPTER VI.

AN OLD TEMPTATION REVIVED.

Helen had entered three new pupils on her books at the beginning of the
fall, these increasing her class to thirteen, and she had also been
engaged, for an early date in October, to sing at a charity fair, to be
held under the auspices of one of the wealthy clubs of the city.  This
seemed quite a promising outlook so early in the season, and she was
also hoping much from her new venture as entertainer at private social
functions.

The fair was extensively advertised, and was held for four afternoons
and evenings of the second week in October, Helen appearing twice upon
each occasion, and proving such a drawing card that a score of
engagements for fashionable receptions was the result of her success.

This was far more than she had dared to expect, and she was much elated
over her good fortune.  Everything moved along peacefully and
prosperously until spring, John bearing his confinement in his uncle's
office better than she had anticipated, and was apparently content with
his salary.  But as the warm weather came on again she could see that
he began to chafe under his confinement in the city and to his work.
He had his vacation of two weeks in August, however, when he made a
trip to Chicago, instead of going into the country, greatly to his
wife's astonishment at the time.  On his return he seemed in high
spirits, saying he had had a fine trip, and resumed his duties with
apparent cheerfulness.

A week later there appeared upon the billboards about the city flaring
advertisements stating that the Wells Opera Company, with beautiful
Marie Duncan as star, would present the "Prince of Pilsen" early in
October.  The newspapers also contained notices of the same fact, and
stated that Miss Duncan had just concluded a summer engagement in
Chicago, and was now resting for a few weeks before taking up her work
in San Francisco.

At once Helen understood John's motive in going to Chicago to spend his
vacation; also his unusual cheerfulness upon his return; and a
foreboding of impending trouble began to haunt her from that moment.

When the Wells Opera Company arrived, Helen made it a point to attend a
matinee, to ascertain for herself what the personality of the popular
favorite was like.

That she was exceedingly beautiful and peculiarly fascinating there was
no denying, and her voice was a marvel of sweetness.

John had never painted anything more true to life than the portrait she
had discovered in his studio in Paris; although, if that were possible,
the siren's charms were riper and even more alluring than at that time.

Nevertheless, there was a vein of coarseness in her manner, a boldness
in her glance and smile, a voluptuous abandon in her acting, that
offended and repelled Helen's finer sensibilities, and sent her home
sick at heart, with mingled fear and jealousy; for, down deep in her
consciousness, she was forced to acknowledge that it was just these
elements in Marie Duncan that appealed to something of the same nature
in her husband's character, and was winning him from his allegiance to
his wife.

She wondered what had become of that portrait.  She had never seen it
since that never-to-be-forgotten day when she had visited Monsieur
Jacques in such distress, to seek some explanation of John's prolonged
absence from home.

John certainly had not brought it back to America with him.  Whither
had it disappeared?  Had he destroyed it, fearing it might some time
betray him?

Suddenly her outraged heart awoke to the truth, and her face flamed
hotly with indignation and humiliation as she recalled the reproduction
she had seen in the magazine she had found under John's pillow in his
berth on the steamer, as they were returning from France.

John had finished his picture; he had given it to the actress before
she sailed for Australia, and she had allowed it to be copied by the
press.

It seemed to Helen that her cup of woe was filled to the brim--her
endurance taxed to the limit, as she began to query within herself what
would be the outcome of Marie Duncan's present engagement in San
Francisco.  But the courage that is born in heroes had also been
planted in Helen Hungerford's heart, and, after the first shock of
dismay had passed, she began to ask what she could do to counteract
Marie's influence and keep her husband loyal to her and true to
himself.  To reveal her suspicions, to voice complaints, criticisms, or
reproaches would only serve to make matters worse; for John was one who
would never bear censure or opposition in any form.  Her only hope lay
in being tactful and diplomatic, in trying to make herself and their
home so attractive that he would be weaned from his infatuation for the
opera star, and realize the folly of ruining his reputation and
domestic peace.

So she bravely resolved to conceal every evidence of anxiety.  John was
in absolute ignorance of the fact that she even dreamed of his interest
in the actress, and she realized the wisdom of still concealing it from
him.  She said nothing of her afternoon at the matinee; she never
referred to the opera, or expressed a desire to see it; neither did her
husband invite her to go, as was usual whenever anything new, of a
musical nature, was running; but she began a systematic course of
acting herself, using every possible device to keep him with his
family, catering to his tastes and humoring his lightest wish or whim.
She asked him to be her escort to and from the social functions at
which she was entertaining; she planned pleasures that would include
them all, and tried to interest him in books she was reading.

But all was of no avail.  He always had some plausible excuse to get
away from home evenings, and often did not return until the small hours
of the morning; he manifested less and less interest in his family; he
was morose and preoccupied, avoiding conversation, and at times was
exceedingly irritable with Dorothy.

Previous to this, since he had been in his uncle's employ, he had
cheerfully contributed a part of his salary to help defray household
expenses; but now he suddenly began to withhold his money, or, if
reminded that funds were needed, doled out a mere pittance so
grudgingly that Helen shrank from the humiliation of asking assistance
and being so inconsiderately treated.

This state of things continued far into the winter, the breach between
the man and his family continually widening, for Dorothy was beginning
to take notice, while he began to be irregular at his business and to
show the effect of late hours and dissipation.

One afternoon, on returning from an engagement at an out-of-town
reception, Helen found, to her great surprise, Mr. Nathan Young, John's
uncle and employer, awaiting her.  It was the first time she had seen
him for many months, for, aside from his one act of giving her husband
his present position, he had never manifested the slightest interest in
the family.

He was rated a very rich man, but, having a fashionable wife and four
daughters to maintain, he was wholly absorbed in his business and
individual responsibilities.

Helen had never been asked to entertain at any of Madam Young's
receptions, although she had sent her, early in the season, a card
announcing her intentions; neither had she ever met any of the family
in the homes of her patrons; and now, when, after greeting her visitor
with graceful courtesy, she threw aside her wrap and stood before him
in her fresh young beauty and charming costume, the man stared at her
in astonishment.

"Really, Mrs. John Hungerford, you look like the wife of a
millionaire," he brusquely observed, a note of keen irony in his tones.

Helen flushed consciously.

She realized that she must appear extravagantly attired to one who did
not understand the situation.  The next moment she smiled frankly up
into her companion's face.

"Perhaps you do not know, Mr. Young, that, for two years, I have been
singing at social functions given by fashionable people, to help John
meet the expenses of the family?" she explained.

"No, I didn't know it," he curtly returned, his shrewd eyes still
studying her costume.

"Of course," Helen went on, "going before such audiences, I am obliged
to dress well; but"--with an air of quiet dignity, for she felt that
the man was rude to her--"as I earn all my own clothes, as well as
Dorothy's, I am wronging no one."

"Humph!" Nathan Young grunted, although his glance softened; for truly
Helen was very pleasant to look upon as she stood before him in her
trailing gown of soft blue silk, tastefully trimmed with real lace that
had belonged to her mother; she also wore some fine jewels which had
come to her from the same source, and the man, now that he
comprehended, secretly liked her spirit and frankness in telling him
just how matters stood.

She showed a turn for business that pleased him, and he chuckled within
himself over her statement that she earned all her own and Dorothy's
clothes.  Money getting had been his one aim from his youth up; he
liked to see people work hard for money; he had no patience with
drones.  He had always viewed John's idiotic dabbling in paints with
undisguised contempt, and had never shown the least interest in his
career as an artist.

Presently he broke forth, almost sharply:

"Where is that husband of yours?"

"John?  Hasn't he been at the office to-day?" Helen inquired, in a
startled tone.

"I've seen nothing of him for nearly a week," the gentleman replied,
with a frown of displeasure.

"You have not seen John for nearly a week!" repeated the astonished
wife, aghast.

"That is what I said," was the curt rejoinder.  "And this isn't the
first time he has neglected his business, by any means, though he has
never stayed away so long before.  I'm tired of his shilly-shallying,
and he has always worked with an air of protest, as if he felt the
position beneath him.  I just dropped in to see if he were ill, or had
any good reason to offer for his absence."

"No, John is perfectly well, and I am amazed at what you have told me,
Mr. Young," Helen observed, with tremulous lips, her composure sadly
shaken.

The man arose, an ominous gleam in his eyes.

"Well, then, you can tell him from me that he need not show up at the
office again," he coldly observed, at the same time laying an envelope
on the table before Helen.  "Here is his pay up to the end of the
month.  He hasn't earned it, but it's what I agreed to give him, and
I'm a man of my word.  I hoped," he continued, less sharply, after a
momentary pause, during which his glance fell upon his companion's
colorless face, "when he came to me for a position he had given up his
nonsense about art, and had made up his mind to settle down to
something worth while, and I meant to do well by him--take him in with
me, by and by, perhaps, if he showed any backbone or interest in the
business; but it is evident that he cares more for his own ease and
pleasure than for anything else, and--I'm through with him."

Helen's heart sank within her.  She dare not think what might be the
consequences if John lost his position just at this time.  It would
leave him with no responsibility, and with nothing to do but to dance
attendance upon Marie Duncan.

She felt it would mean utter ruin for their domestic happiness.  He
might not mend his ways even if his uncle retained him in his service,
since his infatuation for the actress had become so strong; but it
would at least be something to hold him from spending all his time with
her.  To be suddenly cut off like this seemed like the parting asunder
of the cable that held their only anchor of hope, thus leaving them
drifting helplessly upon a treacherous sea.

"Oh, pray do not say that, Mr. Young!" she pleaded, with whitening
lips.  "John needs to be encouraged, to be held by some responsibility.
Will you not kindly give him another trial?"

"No, I have borne all I shall from him," gruffly replied Nathan Young,
but shifting uneasily under the look in her imploring eyes.  "John has
no sense of responsibility, no idea of duty in connection with himself
or any one else.  His only thought is to drift comfortably with the
current; when there is any rowing to be done he thrusts it upon some
one else every time.  I've been studying him ever since he came to me,
and I know.  He will never be 'held,' as you put it, except by his own
will--at least, until he has had some lesson in life that will make a
stronger impression upon him than any he has had yet.  There, I've had
my say!  It has taken me longer to make up my mind to this, perhaps,
than you have any idea, for he was my sister's boy, and I owed her
something; but when I finally come to a decision about anything the
matter is settled.  I am sorry for you, though, Mrs. Hungerford--upon
my word, I am.  I don't believe it has been easy navigating for you, in
spite of the brave front you show to the world," he concluded, with a
touch of honest sympathy, while he wondered if she had any suspicion of
how or where her husband was spending the most of his time.

He had been investigating the movements of his recreant nephew of late,
and he had learned that his companions and pursuits were not at all to
his credit.

Helen stood cold and haughty before him.  She was stung to the quick by
the man's harsh arraignment and curt dismissal of her husband; yet she
knew, in her heart, that he was justified in both.  At the same time,
John was her husband, and the father of her child, and she was bound to
defend him--to be loyal to him as long as defense and loyalty were
possible.

She saw that it was useless to expect any concession from Mr. Young,
that it would be a waste of time and energy to argue with him.  So she
braced herself to meet the inevitable with what composure she could
command, and observed, with an air of quiet dignity:

"I will give Mr. Hungerford your message, Mr. Young.  I deeply regret
that you have been so disappointed in your expectations regarding him.
I feel confident, however, that there is good in him," she went on,
with wifely fealty; "that some time it will be developed, and that he
will win for himself a place and a name in the world.  I trust Madam
Young and the young ladies are well?" she graciously concluded, as she
saw that her visitor was becoming restive and anxious to terminate the
interview.

"Thank you; they are in their usual health," he replied, eagerly
seizing the opportunity she had so gracefully made for him, and his hat
at the same time.

Helen followed him to the door, where she bade him a courteous "good
afternoon;" then, as he passed from her presence, she sank,
strengthless, upon a chair, looking the picture of despair.

"Truly my burden is becoming heavier than I can bear," she moaned, in
bitterness of spirit.



CHAPTER VII.

SERIOUS DOMESTIC COMPLICATIONS.

When John Hungerford returned to his home and learned of his summary
dismissal from his uncle's employ, instead of appearing disturbed by
the unexpected information, he manifested undisguised relief and
satisfaction.

"Thank the propitious Fates!  So the old crank has given me the grand
bounce, has he?" he exclaimed, with sneering levity.

"'_Propitious_ Fates!'" repeated Helen, with grave disapproval.  "I
regard it as a great misfortune.  Pray, what do you intend to do for a
living in the future, John?"

"Oh, I'll look about and see what I can find--I reckon something will
turn up," he returned, with an air of indifference that smote his wife
keenly.

Whether he "looked about," or made any effort to obtain a position,
Helen had no means of knowing.  But weeks passed, and he was still
idle, having done absolutely nothing during that time for the provision
of his family.  He was sullen and disagreeable when at home, and
resented all inquiries regarding his movements.  Thus the husband and
wife could only drift farther and farther apart; for Helen was becoming
both discouraged and indignant in view of John's increasing apathy and
neglect, which seemed to imply that he felt no personal responsibility
and experienced no moral discomfort in allowing her to supply all the
needs of the household indefinitely.

Dorothy was now fourteen years of age, a very bright, attractive girl.
She was keenly observant of what was going on around her, and, as she
not infrequently was a sufferer from the inharmony pervading her home,
she was beginning to realize that something was very wrong between her
father and mother.  Helen, however, never encouraged either comments or
questions from her, and always evaded any reference to the strained
relations between her husband and herself.

But matters continued to grow worse, and were finally brought to a
climax one day when Dorothy burst in upon her, on returning from
school, in a state of great excitement, her face crimson from shame,
her eyes flashing with anger.

"Mamma, what _will_ you say?" she passionately exclaimed.  "I saw papa,
just now, riding in an auto with Marie Duncan, that opera singer who
has been singing at the Grand Theater all winter.  They were laughing,
and joking, and having a great time together.  Grace Winthrop was with
me, and I was so mortified I thought I'd die!"

Helen Hungerford lifted an ashen face to the speaker.

"Dorothy, are you _sure_?" she gasped, the startled throbbing of her
heart making her voice almost inaudible.

"Of course I am sure!" was the positive reply.  "There were so many
teams in the street the auto had to slow down as it passed the car we
were in, and papa saw us, and got awful red in the face.  He nodded to
us, but I just looked him straight back in the eye--I wouldn't notice
him.  Mamma, what makes him do such horrid things?  Why can't he be
nice, like other gentlemen?  Oh, I am so ashamed!  What will Grace
think?  What will everybody think?" she concluded wildly.

"Hush, Dorrie, dear; it can do no good to get so excited over it," said
Helen, her own lips quivering painfully as she folded the trembling
girl in her arms and kissed her tenderly.

Dorothy convulsively returned her embrace; then threw herself in a
torrent of tears upon the couch beside which her mother had been
sitting when she came in.

Helen allowed her to weep unrestrained, believing that the storm would
soonest spend itself in that way.  She sat beside her, white-faced,
heavy-hearted, and tried to confront the situation.

John, openly riding, in broad daylight, through the streets of the
city, with the opera star, betrayed a wantonness that defied all
conventionality or decorum.  It was an evidence of indifference to
public opinion, to his own respectability, and to the notoriety that
must reflect upon his family, which showed how thoroughly infatuated he
had become.

And in an automobile!  Whose car was it?  Did it belong to the actress,
or was John guilty of the extravagance of hiring it to take the woman
about?  If so, where did he get the money to pay for it, when he was
not supplying a dollar toward his own support or that of his family?

When John Hungerford entered his home that night, late as it was, he
found a wan-faced, hollow-eyed woman sitting up for him; yet, despite
the serpent sting in her heart, busy at work upon the week's mending.

"Well," he observed, in a half-jocose, half-defiant tone, although a
flush of shame swept his face as he met his wife's sad eyes, "I suppose
the kid told you?"

"Yes, Dorothy has told me where, and with whom, she saw you this
afternoon.  John, what does it mean?" Helen gravely returned.

Her manner, as well as his own accusing conscience, angered him, and he
swore--another evidence of his degeneration, for, as a rule, he had
been a gentleman, rarely allowing himself to use either profane or
vulgar language.  He had been deeply chagrined, that afternoon, on
coming almost face to face with Dorothy and her friend, the daughter of
one of San Francisco's highly respected citizens.  He had known, of
course, that Dorothy would tell her mother, which nettled him still
more, and now to be arraigned by Helen, to have her presume to dictate
terms to him, as he felt she would do, caused him to lose all control
of himself.

"I don't know that I am accountable to you for where I go, or with whom
I spend my time," he sullenly replied.

Helen sat erect, her own spirit now thoroughly aroused.

"Yes, you _are_ accountable to me when you compromise the honor of your
family--and in the presence of your own child," she said, her blazing
eyes looking straight into his; then she added, with quiet but
convincing firmness: "And the way we have been living of late cannot go
on any longer."

He regarded her with mingled surprise and inquiry.  Had the worm turned
at last?  Had his gentle, loyal, patient wife reached the limit of her
endurance?  Would she--did she mean that she would leave him?  It had
never occurred to him that she would take such a stand as this.

"What do you mean, Helen?" he demanded, with compressed lips.

"I mean that you are making my life intolerable--my burdens are heavier
than I can bear."

"You are jealous of Marie Duncan?" he said, a slight smile curling his
lips.

"Jealous--of _her_?  _No!_" cried Helen scornfully.  "A woman who will
accept the exclusive attentions of a married man, allowing him to
lavish upon her money that is needed by and rightly belongs to his
family, is worthy only of contempt.  But I _am_ concerned for my own
good name and yours, for the future of my child, that no taint shall
mar her prospects and sap the joy from her life.  So I say this state
of things must _stop_."

"Very well; let it stop, then!" John flung back angrily.  "Do you want
a divorce?"

"A divorce!  _I?_" cried Helen, scarce able to restrain a shriek of
aversion at the suggestion.  Then, swallowing hard, she panted: "I
could not be divorced."

"You are mistaken; the law will free you if you desire."

"The _law_!  It is an unholy law, made to accommodate vacillating
natures that lightly wed to-day and weary of their bonds to-morrow; it
is a blot and a shame upon the constitution that permits it, upon the
country that tolerates it.  No, no--it is not possible for me!"

She sat silent for a moment or two, her companion studying her uneasily
meanwhile.

"John," she presently resumed, bending nearer to him, and he could see
the pulses beating in her white throat from the intensity of her
emotion, "when I married you it was no light thing I did.  I gave
_myself_ to you--all that I was then, or ever hoped to be in this
life--until death should part us--_death_, do you understand?--not
until you should become weary of me, or until I found my burdens
heavier than I had thought, but for better or for worse, as long as
time should endure for us.  It was a vow that can never be annulled--a
hundred divorces would avail nothing; I marvel that you could suggest
the measure to me!  I am your wife, united to you not only by that
solemn ceremony that made us one, but by an indissoluble bond that
involves my honor, my love, and my loyalty--by that moral law that
never releases one from his voluntary oath--and your wife I shall
remain as long as I draw breath."

John Hungerford's face had changed many times from crimson to white as
he sat spellbound while his wife poured forth this passionate
revelation of her inmost self to him.

"Do you mean that you would not, _under any circumstances_, seek a
divorce from me?" he inquired, shifting uneasily in his chair, when she
ceased.

"Yes, that is what I mean."

"Suppose--that I should seek a divorce for myself?"

Helen's hand clenched spasmodically within the sock she had been
mending.

"I should still hold myself bound by my vows to you," she said, with
white lips.

The man shrugged his shoulders uncomfortably.

"Just what did you mean by saying that things cannot go on any longer
as they are going with us now?" he questioned.

"I meant that it devolves upon you to assume your share of the burden
of providing for your family; that I will not support you in idleness
any longer."

This was surely straightforward speaking, and John regarded his wife
curiously for a moment.  Hitherto she had been so patient and yielding
he had not believed her capable of taking such a stand.

"Well, if you wish to be rid of me, I suppose I can relieve you of my
presence."

"Where will you go?  How will you live?"

"Oh, I suppose 'the wind will be tempered to the shorn lamb,'" he
quoted, with mocking irreverence.

Helen sprang to her feet, and faced him with flaming eyes.  She felt
disgusted with and outraged by his utter indifference to her
long-suffering patience under many trials, and by his deplorable lack
of manliness.

"John Hungerford, where is your manhood?" she demanded, with cold
scorn.  "Where your respect for your wife, or your love for your child?
Do you not even possess _self_-respect?"

"I warn you not to push me too far," he retorted hotly, adding:
"Perhaps you really want me to get out--do you?" and he leaned toward
her, with a menacing look and air.

"No, for your own sake, I do not wish you to do that; but I do want you
to show yourself a man, and some recognition of your duty as a husband
and father," Helen spiritedly replied.  Then she dauntlessly continued:
"But I tell you again we cannot live this way any longer."

"'Duty!'  'Duty!'  That is always a woman's fling at a man, even if he
is down on his luck.  I'm not at all fond of this nagging, and I
believe, on the whole, we'd be better off apart," he angrily shot back
at her.

For a full minute Helen silently searched his face.  It was flushed,
sullen, dogged.

Was he really weary of the ties that bound him?  Was he tired of her
and of Dorothy?  Was he seeking an excuse to get out, hoping to rid
himself thereby of his moral responsibility, and be free to indulge his
admiration for the fascinating soubrette?  She was forced to believe
that he was--everything seemed to point to that end, and it was evident
that he had no intention of yielding to her terms; he would assume no
responsibilities that were irksome to him; no burdens to cumber him;
and suddenly all her outraged womanhood, wifehood, motherhood were
aroused to arms, overleaping the last point of endurance.

She drew herself to her full height, and confronted him with a spirit
he had never seen her manifest before.

"_As--you--please!_" she said, with freezing deliberation; and, pulling
from her hand the silken sock she had been mending for him when he came
in, she tossed it upon the floor at his feet.  She held his eye for
another brief moment, and he cringed visibly beneath the contemptuous
renunciation that he read in the look.  The next he was alone.  Helen
had fled to her chamber, where she fell, half fainting, upon her bed,
her heart broken, her spirit crushed.

A little later she heard the outer door close with a bang, and knew
that her husband had left the house.  Would he ever return?  Would she
really care if he never returned?

Her burdens and trials had been very heavy and perplexing during most
of her married life.  She had tried to be brave, loyal, and
self-sacrificing; she had laid her all upon the altar of her love for
this man, only to have her unceasing immolation ignored, as of no
special value, except in so far as it had relieved him of care,
clothed, fed, and sheltered him.  Now the last straw had been laid upon
her by his shameless devotion to a brazen actress, regardless of the
taint upon his own reputation and the scandal it must entail upon his
family.  It seemed, as she lay there, half conscious, as if this blow
had crushed every atom of affection for him out of her heart, and she
began to feel that, as far as she was concerned, it might be a blessed
release to be free from him forever.  Yet for his own and Dorothy's
sake, she would have continued to bear her cross indefinitely and
without a murmur, to save him from sin and to shield her child from the
disgrace that now threatened them all.

Days passed and lengthened into weeks, during which she did not once
see or hear from her husband; but one afternoon, upon returning from an
engagement out of town, she found that he had been in the house and
removed all of his personal belongings, together with the choicest of
his paintings and some rare curios which he had collected during their
honeymoon abroad.  This act convinced her that he intended their
separation to be final.

She had told Dorothy something of the recent stormy interview between
her husband and herself, because she believed it best to prepare her
for what she feared might be the outcome of it before very long.

During the earlier portion of her brief life Dorothy had been very fond
of her father, and he had always manifested a strong affection for her;
but during the last two years Helen had observed that the girl often
avoided him, that she grieved over his growing indifference to his
obligations and his home; while not infrequently she had openly
resented his treatment of her mother.

When Helen told her she thought it probable that her father would leave
them altogether, the girl sat in silent thought for several minutes.
Then she lifted adoring eyes to her mother's face.

"Mamma, if he _wants_ to go away from such a lovely wife as you have
been, because he--he likes that coarse, loud-talking woman I saw him
with that day, I--I'd just _let_ him go, and--and be glad to have him
away," she said, her face growing crimson, her eyes flashing resentment
in view of her father's wrongdoing.

"But, Dorrie, dear, he is your father, and----"

"My _father_!  He hasn't acted much like a father who cared anything
for his daughter!" Dorothy indignantly interposed.  "And he's been
horrid to _you_, lots of times.  He's been so _lazy_, too, lounging
around the house and letting you work so hard, and taking your _money_.
I've been so ashamed that he couldn't be like other gentlemen, and take
care of _us_.  I used to think I was proud of him, and loved him, for
he _is_ handsome and can be nice when he feels like it.  I--I don't
like to go near him now, though, and I haven't wanted to kiss him for a
long time.  But I love _you_, mamma, dear, with all my heart; and if he
does go away I will try to be so good to you that--that perhaps you
won't mind it quite so much," the child concluded, with a burst of
tears, as she threw herself into her mother's arms, and clung to her
convulsively.

Helen was deeply touched by this spontaneous outburst of love and
loyalty, and, as she thought the matter over more and more, she began
to feel that if John's infatuation could not be broken--if he was past
redemption--it would be better for Dorothy, perhaps, to be away from
his influence.

A month later Helen received notice from a lawyer, informing her of her
husband's intention of applying for a divorce; he also stated that Mr.
Hungerford desired a personal interview for the purpose of definitely
arranging the matter with her.

Helen acceded to this request, and the scene recorded in our opening
chapter followed a few days later, when John Hungerford learned, much
to his surprise, that his wife would oppose no obstacle to his desire
and efforts to secure a legal separation from her; when she had told
him he might go free, as soon as the law would allow, provided he would
relinquish all claim to Dorothy and did not attempt to compromise
herself in any way.

The result we already know.  The divorce was granted.  John Hungerford
went immediately abroad, ostensibly to resume his art studies, but
really to follow the woman who had won his allegiance from his wife,
and Helen was left to meet the situation alone as best she could.



CHAPTER VIII.

HELEN PLANS HER FUTURE.

"I have decided to leave San Francisco.  I will not have Dorothy's life
spoiled by this wretched scandal, which she will never be allowed to
forget if we remain here.  I am going to put three thousand miles
between our past history and ourselves.  I am going to New York City to
live."

Thus announced Helen Hungerford while discussing her future with her
lifelong friend, Mrs. Horace Hamilton, who had been not only her chum
throughout their college course, and her maid of honor at her marriage,
but had faithfully stood by her in all her trials since her return from
Europe.  It was she who had helped her to secure music scholars, who
had been first and foremost in introducing her as a chamber-concert
singer, and launching her upon the career that had proved such a signal
success.  She had also been especially kind and loyal at the time of
her husband's desertion, and shielded her in every possible way from
the gossip and scandal attending the unfortunate separation.

"Mercy, dear, won't it be flying in the face of Providence for you to
race wildly off to the other side of the continent?" exclaimed Mrs.
Hamilton, in a startled tone, adding sympathetically: "I am forced to
admit that your position here is certainly very trying, Helen; but this
seems to me like a perfectly mad scheme.  Do you know a single soul in
New York?"

"No, I do not; and that is just the reason why I am going there."

"But you are so well established, and have so many stanch friends here;
the sympathies of every one who knows you and the trials you have had
to encounter are with you," objected her companion.

"I know that; everybody has been heavenly kind to me, and I fully
appreciate it," said Helen, with starting tears.  "But I don't want
_sympathy_--I simply want to forget; and I will not have Dorothy
weighed down with pity, and all the brightness and hope crushed out of
her life," she concluded passionately, and flushing with hot resentment
against her hard lot.

"But I am afraid you will have an awfully hard struggle all alone in
New York," said her friend, looking deeply troubled.  "And yet--I don't
know"--her face clearing suddenly--"Lena Jerome, Horace's sister, is
prominent in society there.  She is a dear, and would do anything to
help a friend of ours.  You certainly are a fine music teacher,
Helen--you make all your pupils love you, and I believe that is one
secret of your success; and you sing divinely at drawing-room
functions.  Lena would be just the one to aid you in securing the right
kind of scholars, and to secure for you the entrée to society for
entertaining, as you have done here.  After all, I do believe it will
be the very best thing for you to do, if--if the expense of such a
change will not be too much for you," Mrs. Hamilton concluded, with
some embarrassment, for she believed that John Hungerford had left his
wife absolutely penniless.

"I have saved some money from my own earnings," Helen explained.  "It
has been uphill work since John gave up business, but I have never
allowed myself to spend every dollar of my income; I have managed to
put away something every month--'an emergency nest egg,' I have called
it.  Then, the little my father left me I have sacredly hoarded to
defray the expense of a college course for Dorothy; so I am sure I can
manage very well, even in New York, until I can secure pupils and
engagements.  I shall be very grateful to Mr. Hamilton's sister if she
will take me under her friendly wing for a little while, until I become
established.  Belle, what should I have done without you?  You have
been my sheet anchor in this heartbreaking storm."

She reached out, clasped her friend's hand, and laid it against her
lips, as she ceased speaking.

Mrs. Hamilton slipped an affectionate arm about her waist, and drew her
close, hot tears of rebellion welling to her eyes as she recalled the
evening of Helen's brilliant wedding, when they had stood side by side
beneath the great arch of white roses in the Appletons' lovely home,
and contrasted the seemingly bright outlook of that occasion with her
present blighted hopes and broken heart.

"Well, you know it was always 'you and I together, love,' in the old
days at college--one never had a pleasure or a trouble that the other
did not share, and I am sure we love each other as well to-day, if not
better, than we did then," she fondly replied; then added, with
cheerful animation: "Now, let me tell you that your plan appeals to me
more and more.  I can see that you and Dorothy will escape a great deal
of depressing and exasperating scandal by this change; thus, as you
have said, the dear child's future will not be marred by continual
reminders of the unhappy experiences of the last few years.  You have
brought her up admirably thus far, Helen--she gives promise of becoming
a beautiful and talented woman; and I believe when we have you well
settled in New York you will both be happier than you have been for a
long time."

"What a blessing it is to have a loyal friend!" breathed Helen
gratefully.  "You have cheered me more than I can tell you, and, with
your assurance of Mrs. Jerome's influence to help me in my future
career, my courage is greatly strengthened.  I--I shall ask you to
introduce us to her as--Mrs. and Miss Dorothy _Ford_," she concluded,
with some hesitation, as she searched her friend's face to see how she
would receive this suggestion.

"That is another plan of which I heartily approve," returned Mrs.
Hamilton, with unfeigned satisfaction.  "Put away from
you--_forget_--all that is possible pertaining to the sad past, and
take a new lease of life and happiness.  But for Dorothy, I would have
advised that you resume your maiden name.  'Ford' will do very nicely,
though.  A new name may have the effect of strengthening your feeling
of independence, and will not expose you to inquiries concerning John
Hungerford.  Now, dear heart, I must go straight home--it is almost
dinner time, and I am eager to tell Horace of your plan for the future.
I feel sure that he also will think well of it.  I will send the car
around for you and Dorrie to come and dine with us to-morrow night, and
we will all talk it over together more at length."

Mr. Hamilton, who was a wise counselor, did think well of Helen's
contemplated change of residence, and as he advised her to get away as
early as practicable from all unpleasant reminders, she began at once
to prepare for her departure.

She disposed of all her household furniture, knowing it would be very
expensive and troublesome to move it across the continent; and, as she
still had some fine old pieces that had been in her family for many
years, she realized from this sale a snug sum, that would go far toward
furnishing her new home upon reaching her destination.

This involved much care and labor, and she found her fortitude and
strength were well-nigh spent when all was over, and her once pretty
apartment shorn of all that had once made it an attractive home.

The Hamiltons had insisted upon having Dorothy and herself spend a week
with them and have a good rest before leaving for New York, and Helen
had deferred until this time a few errands and small matters of
business that remained to be attended to.

One of these was the withdrawal of Dorothy's money from the
institutions where it had been deposited.  But when she opened her
treasure box, where she had always kept important papers, her mother's
jewelry, and other choice mementoes, the bank books were not to be
found.

She could not believe the evidence of her own eyes, and searched the
contents of the receptacle over and over, with, alas! the same result.

With a sinking heart, she flew to the bank officials, to make
inquiries, only to be told, with evident surprise, in view of her
ignorance of the fact, that Mr. Hungerford had, as Dorothy's legal
guardian, closed the accounts some three months previous.

This terrible and unlooked-for blow was the overflowing drop in Helen's
cup of woe, and for the first time in her life she was utterly
prostrated, the shock resulting in a serious illness that kept her in
bed for three miserable weeks.

Once again faithful Belle Hamilton and her good husband proved the
unfailing loyalty of their friendship.  The pleasantest room in their
beautiful home was assigned to the suffering woman; the family
physician and a good nurse were drafted into her service, and nothing
spared that would contribute to her comfort and restoration.

But Helen was not only physically exhausted; she was also heartsick and
weary of the struggle to live, and, for a time, it seemed doubtful
which way the tide would turn.  But her motherhood was her salvation,
and the crisis was at length safely passed.

"If it were not for Dorrie, I would gladly give up the battle," she
said weakly to her friend one day, when she was beginning to
convalesce, yet with her strength at a very low ebb.  "If--if I _have_
to leave her, Belle, I know you will still be a good friend to her, as
you have been to me."

"Next to Horace and you, Dorrie is my best beloved, and I have no
children of my own.  I do not need to say more, Helen," returned Mrs.
Hamilton, her composure sadly shaken.  "But, dearie," she added
cheerily, as she fondly stroked the brown head upon the pillow, "you
will not have to leave her.  Doctor Allen told Horace yesterday that
you are coming out all right, and I beg you will not allow yourself to
think anything else, for Dorrie needs her _mother_; no one else can do
for her what you can do.  Now, Helen," she went on, with grave
authority, "you simply _must_ put out of your consciousness every
desponding thought, for your own sake, as well as ours.  Don't worry
about money, or how you are going to manage when you get to New York;
everything will be taken care of for you until you can take care of
yourself, and I know if you will only call back your courage, take a
fresh grip on hope, and do your best to get well, you will ultimately
conquer every adverse circumstance, and you and Dorothy will yet have a
beautiful and happy life together."

This sensible advice, together with the love and cheerful atmosphere
surrounding her, was very helpful to the invalid, and she improved more
rapidly from that time.

She _had_ "worried about money" and what would be the outcome of her
overwhelming misfortune, for, with what little she had left, she knew
it would be impossible to defray the expenses of the journey to and
make a home upon her arrival in New York.  It had almost seemed as if
she were fated to remain in San Francisco and meekly take up again the
work she had just relinquished, even though Dorothy's whole future
might be marred thereby.

But her friend's reassuring talk had put new heart into her, and she
immediately began to plan her work for the coming winter.  By another
week she was able to be up and dressed, and, with her physician's
sanction, the day of her departure was set seven days later.

One evening, on coming home to dinner, Mr. Hamilton informed his wife,
after they were all seated at the table, that important business called
him to New York, and, with the time it would take going and returning,
he would probably be absent from home nearly a month.  He concluded by
inquiring, in a matter-of-fact tone:

"How would you like to come with me, Belle, and make that long-promised
visit to Lena?"

"How delightful!  I should like it exceedingly," replied Mrs. Hamilton,
lifting a searching look to her husband's face.  This was the first she
had heard about "business in New York," and she had a strong suspicion
that some other motive had prompted this sudden trip.

A twinkle shot into the gentleman's eyes as they met her own, which
quickly suffused with tears as she realized that this plan was simply a
ruse to protect and support Helen throughout her long journey and see
her comfortably settled in her new home upon the far side of the
continent.

Mr. Hamilton hastened to her rescue, for he saw that she was very near
losing her composure and spoiling everything.

"We haven't had a real outing together, dear, for a long time," he
smilingly observed; "and when Mr. Ashley told me this morning he
thought we'd better send some one to New York and Washington to look
into some complications that have arisen in connection with our new
patents, I told him I would be glad to go myself.  I thought it would
be very pleasant for you and me to bear our departing friends company
on their long journey--oh, Dorrie, what do you think of it?" he
concluded, turning to the girl, who always sat at his right hand at
table--a privilege she greatly appreciated.

"Oh, Uncle Horace, I think it will be just--_grand_!" she exclaimed,
clapping her hands for joy.  "It won't seem _quite_ so much like going
away from you and Aunt Belle altogether."

He reached out a shapely hand and patted her softly on the shoulder, a
suspicion of tears in his own eyes, for the child had greatly endeared
herself to him during her stay in the house.

"Well, then, Belle, dear, if you can get your grip packed by Monday
morning, I will be ready to act as escort for the party to the great
and terrible city of Gotham."

"Grip, indeed!" exclaimed his wife, in mock indignation, but giving him
a roguish look.  "I am expecting to take a trunk, containing several
empty trays, with me, if you please.  Pray, did you imagine that you
were going to take me to New York--the Paris of America--and bring me
home again, without being well stocked with the prettiest things I
could find?"

Mr. Hamilton gravely put down his knife and fork, drew forth a very
flat-looking wallet, and laid it upon the table before Dorothy, with a
dejected air.

"Open it, sweetheart, and tell me if you do not think your auntie is a
very unreasonable woman and your uncle a much-abused man," he said, in
an injured tone.

Dorothy unfolded the receptacle, carefully looked it through, and
brought to light a single twenty-dollar bill.

Her brows contracted in perplexity.  She studied the crisp note for a
moment, then naïvely returned:

"Why, Uncle Horace, that isn't _all_ you will have to spend in New
York, is it?  I--I thought you were--were very rich!"

A burst of laughter greeted her innocent remark, at which Dorothy
flushed rosily, to find a joke had been played upon her; then, quietly
returning the bill to its place, she passed the wallet to Mr. Hamilton,
and observed demurely:

"I guess auntie knows what she is about, and where to find more when
she wants it," at which a second outburst brought a dimple into her own
cheeks.

"Dorothy, I did not think that of you!  Do you know what faithful Mrs.
Micawber was in the habit of saying to Mr. Micawber?" inquired Mr.
Hamilton, with an assumption of severity.

"Yes, sir; but I don't think _Mr._ Micawber was in the habit of playing
_tricks_ upon _Mrs._ Micawber," retorted Dorothy, the mischievous
dimples deepening, while Mrs. Hamilton applauded gleefully with both
hands.

"So you are going to desert me, if I play tricks upon you!  Well, I
can't afford to lose my sweetheart, so we will try to be good
friends--at least until we reach New York, and I promise you auntie
shall not suffer for pretty things," said the gentleman, bestowing a
fond look upon her and a smile upon his wife.

"Oh, Uncle Horace, I wish _you_ were going to live in New York, too,"
the girl observed wistfully.  "If I could only have you, and Aunt
Belle, and Grace Winthrop, I would be perfectly happy."

"You will miss Grace, but you will find nice friends wherever you go,"
said Mrs. Hamilton kindly; then the conversation turned upon plans for
the coming trip.

The next few days were busy ones, and Monday morning found the party of
four en route for the East; and with her good friends to bear her
cheerful company Helen bade a final farewell to her "Valley of Achor,"
and turned her face toward the rising sun, with something of hope in
her heart, to begin anew the battle of life for herself and her child,
in a great, unknown city.

Upon their arrival in New York, the Hamiltons helped her to find and
furnish a small apartment in a good location, these faithful friends
manifesting a keen enjoyment and interest in their work that was most
inspiring to Helen.

It certainly was a very attractive little nest when the last touches
were put to it--"a haven of rest," she told them, after her battle with
the rough storms and winds that had wrecked her bark and left her
bruised and broken upon the barren shore of despair.

Before it was time for the Hamiltons to return to San Francisco, both
mother and daughter began to feel quite at home in their quiet corner
of the mighty city, and to manifest a serenity, even something of
happiness, that was very gratifying to these good people, who felt
deeply concerned for their future.

They had been introduced to the Jeromes, who had cordially opened their
hearts and home to them, and who assured Mr. Hamilton that they would
do everything in their power to launch Mrs. Ford upon her career during
the coming season; while Mollie Jerome, their daughter, about the same
age of Dorothy, was at once greatly attracted to her new little friend.

"Mamma, I think she is _almost_ as nice as Grace, and isn't it
beautiful to have found some one to love so quickly?" Dorothy confided
to her mother one night, on her return after having been entertained
all day in the elegant home of the Jeromes.

By the first of October, through the influence of Mrs. Homer Jerome,
Helen had secured a number of pupils and an engagement to sing at a
fashionable reception, the date of which was set for the third of
November.

With this small but promising beginning, her spirits began to rise, and
she found all her former energy and love for her work returning.

She was gaining rapidly in flesh and strength; the lines of care and
trouble were fast fading out of her face, even though there were times
when she was broken-hearted and passionately rebellious, in view of her
husband's dishonor and faithlessness, and her own miserable position as
a deserted wife.

Her first work, after getting settled in her little home, was to put
Dorothy into a good school, after which she gave herself up for several
hours of every day to systematic practice to get in good voice for her
first appearance in New York society as a drawing-room artiste.



CHAPTER IX.

AFTER TEN YEARS.

  The thorns I have reaped are of the tree
  I planted; they have torn me and I bled;
  I should have known what fruit would spring from such
        a seed.  BYRON.


It is a brilliant, star-lighted night in December.

In an even more brilliantly illuminated mansion on Fifth Avenue, New
York City, a distinguished company is assembled.  Elderly and
middle-aged gentlemen, dignified and imposing, with the suggestion of
opulence pervading every look and movement; young men, alert and full
of vigor, all clad in conventional dress suits and immaculate linen;
stately and beautiful matrons, elegantly robed in velvet and costly
laces; younger women resplendent in all the tints of the rainbow, and
flashing with diamonds and other many-hued gems; pretty débutantes, in
diaphanous and saintly white, gleaming like spotless lilies in beds of
variegated poppies; flowers and perfume everywhere; entrancing melody
from an invisible orchestra, mingling with many musical voices, joyous
laughter, and the rustle and swish of silk and satin--all contributed
to produce a wonderful scene and an exhilarating atmosphere, which
assumed life to be one long, gorgeous gala day, with never a cloud to
dim its brightness or cast its shadow upon these gay votaries of
fashion and pleasure.

Suddenly the music of the orchestra ceased, and presently a few
dominant chords were struck upon a fine-toned concert-grand piano, as
if to demand attention and silence.

The next moment a woman of beautiful and gracious presence stepped upon
a low platform beside the instrument, whereupon the buzzing of many
voices was hushed, and an air of eager expectation pervaded the company.

The dominant chords were followed by a rippling prelude, which soon
dropped into the more precise rhythm of an accompaniment; then a
glorious voice, full, rich, and thrillingly sympathetic, broke upon the
stillness, rising, falling, and trilling easily and naturally as a
bird, that, conscious only of the supreme impulse within his throbbing
breast and vibrating in his wonderful little throat, pours forth his
joy-laden soul in enraptured and exquisite song.

Every eye within range of her was fastened upon the singer, a queenly
matron, charmingly gowned in some soft material of pale-pink lavender.
Her abundant brown hair was becomingly arranged and surmounted by a
glittering aigrette of jewels, her only visible ornament.  She was good
to look upon as well as to listen to, and bore herself with the ease
and poise of one long accustomed to entertain fashionable audiences
like the present, yet without a suggestion of self-consciousness to mar
her excellent work.

She rendered a group of three classical songs with artistic effect that
won for her a round of hearty applause as she ceased.  She gracefully
acknowledged the tribute paid her, then turned and smilingly nodded to
some one who had evidently been sitting near her.  Immediately a lovely
girl, robed in white, arose, and took her stand at the left of the
artiste.

A flutter of excitement throughout the room indicated the anticipation
of some unusual treat as harp, violin, and cello, accompanied by the
piano, rendered an inspiring introduction, which was followed by a
familiar duet from one of the standard operas, and executed with an
exquisite interpretation and spirit that held every listener spellbound
to the end, and evoked a storm of enthusiastic approval upon its
conclusion.

"Jove! can't they sing!  Who are they, Jerome?  Sisters, I should
judge, by their strong resemblance to each other, and the younger is
simply adorable!"

Mr. Homer Jerome, the host of the evening, smiled, his fine eyes
twinkling with secret satisfaction at these flattering compliments
bestowed upon the protégées of his wife by the aristocratic and
fastidious Clifford Alexander, the son of an old college chum, who had
recently returned from several years' sojourn in Europe.

"The elder lady is Madam Ford, who has become quite noted in New York
during the last ten years as a drawing-room artiste.  She is in great
demand among society people, and never fails to give satisfaction to an
appreciative audience.  Her companion is Miss Dorothy Ford, madam's
daughter," Mr. Jerome explained.

"You don't mean to tell me that the lady in lavender is the mother of
the other!  It doesn't seem possible!" exclaimed the first speaker,
astonished.

"I am sure Madam Ford would appreciate the flattering, though indirect,
compliment you have paid her, my boy," observed his host, with a genial
laugh.  "Madam is certainly a very youthful-looking woman, considering
her age and checkered experiences, for, some years ago, she was left
penniless to battle, single-handed, with the world, and she has seen
much trouble."

"She is a widow, then?"

"Um--er--I think it was about ten years ago that she lost her husband,"
was Mr. Jerome's somewhat noncommittal reply; then he hastened to add:
"But she faced the situation with indomitable courage and energy, and,
possessing much native talent, a beautiful voice, and a charming
personality, she has achieved a brilliant career for herself."

"Evidently she has found a very warm friend in Mr. Homer Jerome, to
whom, perhaps, she may owe something of her success in life," observed
Mr. Alexander, to whom his host's generous-spirited philanthropy was no
secret.

"I esteem it an honor to be numbered among Madam Ford's friends,"
heartily returned Mr. Jerome.  "She was really a protégée of my wife's,
to begin with, and we have seen a good deal of her during the ten years
of our acquaintance--first, to admire her for her heroism and
perseverance under difficulties, and later to love her for herself.
The daughter is no less lovely than her mother," the gentleman
continued, his eyes lingering fondly upon the girl.  "Madam has given
her every possible advantage, and when she discovered that she also
possessed a promising voice she placed her under one of our finest
teachers, here in New York, with what result you have just had the
pleasure of ascertaining."

"She is surely deserving of laurels for this evening's work," said the
young man appreciatively.

"Particularly as this is her first appearance in a professional rôle.
Her voice is powerful, rich, and sympathetic.  I would not be surprised
if Miss Dorothy eventually outclasses her mother as an artist."  And
Mr. Jerome beamed satisfaction upon his favorite as he concluded.

"Dorothy Ford," mused Clifford Alexander, his voice lingering upon the
name while his fine eyes studied the face of the beautiful girl, who
was now chatting socially with a group of people who were offering
hearty congratulations to both mother and daughter.  "It is a
peculiarly euphonious name for a very attractive young woman.
Introduce me, will you, Jerome?"

"With the greatest pleasure," responded that gentleman, with a sly
smile; and a few minutes later Mr. Alexander was making his best bow
before Madam Ford, whom he found even more charming at close range than
at a distance; and then the usually imperturbable young man found
himself experiencing unaccustomed heart throbs upon being presented to
the adorable Dorothy.

The girl did not offer him her hand, but, after gracefully
acknowledging the introduction, lifted her limpid gray eyes to the
gentleman's face with an earnest, straightforward look which told him
that she was one who judged people somewhat from first impressions.

His glance held hers for a moment, during which he was particularly
attracted by the sweet serenity of her gaze, while he was at the same
time conscious that every feature of her lovely face was aglow with
intelligence and vivacity.

Her skin was fine and clear, with a touch of rose on her cheeks; her
lips a vivid scarlet.  A wealth of red-brown hair was arranged high on
her head, thus adding to her stature and poise; her features, though by
no means perfect, were fascinatingly expressive, especially when she
spoke or smiled.

Her graceful, symmetrical figure was clad in virgin white, with no
ornament save a string of rare pearls that once had belonged to her
grandmother Appleton; and, to her new acquaintance, Dorothy Ford
appeared the embodiment of loveliness and purity.

"Allow me to thank you both for the great pleasure I have just
enjoyed," Mr. Alexander remarked, when their greetings were over, the
sincerity in his tones saving his observation from seeming triteness.

Madam Ford smiled with motherly pride as she gracefully thanked him,
and, bending a fond glance upon Dorothy, added:

"I really feel that my daughter is entitled to congratulations, since
this is her first appearance, professionally, before a critical
audience.  I must confess, however, to having experienced some inward
quakings in view of that fact; but her first note reassured me----"

"Why, mamma, I am surprised!" laughingly interposed Dorothy, but
flushing with pleasure, nevertheless, in view of her mother's
commendation, Mr. Jerome's approving eyes, and the evident appreciation
of her new acquaintance--"after all your careful coaching, not to
mention Signor Rotoni's merciless training for this important event!
Moreover, the burden of responsibility rested entirely upon you, and I
wasn't conscious of a quake, though I confess I might not have felt
quite so confident if I had been obliged to face all these people
alone."

"So this is your début before society, Miss Ford?" Mr. Alexander
observed, and charmed by the maiden's refreshing ingenuousness.

"Yes, as a vocalist; not socially, however, for Mrs. Jerome kindly
introduced me, with Miss Jerome, some time ago," Dorothy replied,
adding: "I have, perhaps, enjoyed some advantages to give me confidence
which débutantes, as a rule, do not have.  Mamma having been so much
before the public, I have also had my responsibilities in the
profession, for"--with a laughing glance at her mother--"I have
frequently acted as her chaperon when she has had engagements at a
distance from home."

"'Chaperon!'  That is rather good, Helen," Mr. Jerome here dryly
interposed, and bending a pair of twinkling eyes upon madam.  "Well,
you do look almost youthful enough to need a chaperon; Alexander was
saying only a few moments ago he thought you and Dorothy must be
sisters."

"There, mamma, now will you believe what I said to you before we left
home?" gleefully exclaimed Dorothy.  "I told her," she went on, nodding
brightly at Mr. Jerome, "that she is growing younger every year, and no
one would suspect that she is the mother of a twenty-five-year-old
daughter----"

"'Sh--'sh!  Oh, Dorrie, _how_ indiscreet to tell it!" interposed her
host, in pretended consternation at her frankness.

"Perhaps it was," retorted the girl, with a roguish gleam in her eyes.
"I did not realize what my admission would imply, and I humbly beg
mamma's pardon for trespassing upon so delicate a subject," and she
curtsied with mock humility to her mother, without a vestige of
self-consciousness for having given away her own age.

"Now, I suppose it behooves me to offer thanks to Mr. Alexander for a
very pretty compliment," demurely observed Madam Ford, when the laugh
at Dorothy's clever repartee had subsided.

"Oh, Helen," groaned Mr. Jerome, who dearly loved to hector, "I am
surprised to hear you giving thanks for a compliment at your charming
daughter's expense!"  Then, turning to Dorothy, he added, with an air
of commiseration: "Dorrie, dear, you have my deepest sympathy in view
of your aged appearance; if you had only not persisted in growing up,
so early, to be so mature, tall, and stately, people would not have
been so prone to mistake you for your mother's sister," he concluded,
bestowing a reproachful look upon the young man standing beside her.

"Really, Jerome," Clifford Alexander here laughingly interposed, but
with heightening color beneath his friend's persistent banter, "I seem
inadvertently to have stumbled upon dangerous ground, and there appears
to be no way to either advance or retreat with any glory to myself.
Pray tell me how I am to propitiate so gallant a champion as you have
constituted yourself; also this fair lady"--with a deprecating glance
at Dorothy--"whose cause you so ardently espouse."

"This 'fair lady' and her 'champion,' as you are pleased to regard me,
have been lovers ever since she was a small girl in short dresses, I
would have you understand, and I warn you, young man, that I am very
jealous for her--eh, Dorothy?" Mr. Jerome asserted, with a delightful
air of proprietorship.  "However," he continued, "I can assure you she
is easily propitiated, for she is exceedingly amiable."

"That, I am sure, goes without saying," affably assented the young man.

"Exactly; and, taking her all in all, she is '_simply adorable!_'"
retorted his host, in a significant tone, as he thus quoted the young
man's own words of a few moments previous, and which again sent the
quick color to his face.

Dorothy had thoroughly enjoyed the tilt at her expense, but now she
began to feel the situation becoming a trifle embarrassing, both for
herself and her new acquaintance; and, turning brightly to him, she
merrily observed:

"Pray, do not mind him, Mr. Alexander; he is the greatest tease in New
York.  He has hectored me for years, and does not half realize that I
have grown up to be almost mamma's double; for really we are more like
two devoted chums or sisters than like mother and daughter."

"Miss Ford, I am everlastingly obliged to you for the olive branch of
peace you so kindly extend to me," the gentleman smilingly returned.
"And now, as the room is very warm, won't you come and let me get you
an ice, or a glass of punch?  I am sure Mr. Jerome will kindly care for
Madam Ford."

"Thank you; I shall be glad to have an ice, if you will be so kind,"
Dorothy cordially assented.

She nodded a gay adieu to her mother and Mr. Jerome, as she turned to
accompany her escort, who shot a look of mock triumph at his host as he
walked off with his coveted prize.

"That is a mighty fine fellow, Helen," remarked her companion, as the
two young people disappeared among the throng.

"He is certainly good to look upon; not exactly what would be regarded
as a handsome man, but decidedly distinguished in appearance, and with
evidences of a fine character written on his strong face," madam
replied.

"You are right; but he has never been a 'ladies' man,' much to the
chagrin of many of our New York mothers.  I am surprised at his walking
off so summarily with Dorothy--no," he corrected, "I am not surprised,
either, for Dorrie would melt a statue of ice.  Next to my Mollie, she
is the most glorious girl I know."

Madam Ford smiled as she bestowed a grateful look upon the speaker for
his high praise.

"You have idealized Dorothy, I am afraid," she returned, with evident
emotion; "but one is prone to endow those in whom one is deeply
interested with the rich qualities of his own nature.  You are so
thoroughly good yourself, my friend, you can see nothing but good in
others."

"Somebody else, I perceive, is looking through rose-tinted glasses at
this very moment, Helen," lightly responded her companion.

"Well, you must not forget that you have put some rose tints into my
life during the last ten years; you have also been almost like a father
to my child, and I am not likely to forget it--nor the heavenly
kindness of your wife, either."  Helen's lips were tremulous as she
concluded.

"My wife is a gem of the first water," responded her companion, in a
low, intense tone, a fond look in his fine eyes, as they rested upon a
stately woman standing in the full light of a brilliant chandelier not
far from them.

"Indeed, she is," Helen heartily assented, as her glance followed his;
for never in her life had she met a couple who lived in such perfect
accord with each other as Homer and Lena Jerome.



CHAPTER X.

A BRIEF RETROSPECT.

Ten years have elapsed since Helen Hungerford was deserted by her
husband, and left almost destitute to begin again the battle of life
for herself and her child.

After having been introduced to New York society, she began immediately
to prosper.  Mrs. Jerome, the sister-in-law of Helen's dearest friend,
had at once interested herself in her career as a drawing-room artiste,
with an enthusiasm there was no opposing; she started the ball rolling
for her, and Helen's charming personality, with her cultured,
delightful voice, her determination to please and to succeed, did the
rest.  Each year her engagements and pupils multiplied; and, having
followed the advice of the Jeromes to set her prices at a figure to
give dignity and value to her services, she soon became the fashion,
with an ample and constantly increasing income at her command.

This had, ere long, enabled her to locate in a more desirable part of
the city, and to handsomely furnish a large apartment, with a studio
for her musical work; and, with competent help to relieve her of all
domestic drudgery, she found life easier and brighter than it had even
been since the first year of her marriage.  Neither did she relax
effort in her own behalf; she put herself under a noted finishing
teacher, both to enhance her own attractions and to keep her repertoire
up to date.  Dorothy, also, was given every advantage, and at the age
of nineteen entered college, from which she graduated four years later.

Meanwhile, she also had developed a decided talent for music,
possessing a rich contralto voice that promised great things for the
future; and the ensuing two years were spent in making the most of her
talent, until, as we have seen, she was beginning to create quite a
stir in musical circles, and to share honors with her mother.

They had lived very harmoniously during most of this time, trying to
forget the bitter past, and every year becoming nearer and dearer to
each other, until, as Dorothy had told Clifford Alexander, they were
"more like two devoted chums or sisters than mother and daughter."

But all this had not been achieved without severe struggles on the part
of Helen.  During the first two years of her sojourn in New York,
notwithstanding her almost phenomenal success, she had been bitterly
unreconciled to the fate that had doomed her to live out her life as a
deserted wife, to be both father and mother to her child, and had even
necessitated the concealment of her identity in order to save Dorothy
the mortification of being known as the daughter of a divorcee.

She had seasons of wretched brooding, almost amounting to despair,
during which it would seem that she could not force herself to fulfill
her engagements; when she simply wallowed in the mire of bitter
humiliation, rebellion, and self-pity, in view of having been made the
target of a malicious fate, the football of an irresponsible man's
fickleness, indolence, and selfishness; of an unscrupulous woman's
blandishments and coquetry, and her life wrecked in its prime.

For herself, aside from her child, the future seemed to hold no
promise; she was not yet forty years of age; she might live forty years
longer.  Would she have courage sufficient to sustain her so long--to
carry this intolerable thorn that rankled in her heart continually?
And what made this thorn in the flesh so intolerable? she sometimes
asked herself.  If her husband had died, she might have grieved for a
time over the memory of his unkind treatment of her; but eventually the
sting of it would have ceased, and the wound would have healed, and she
would have forgiven him.

And what was this thorn, anyway?  The question came to her, almost like
an audible voice, one day, when she had been more than usually
depressed; and, with a sudden inward shrinking from herself, it was
forced upon her that it was of her own planting and nourishment, and
its sting was her own bitterness, hate, and resentment against the
living man, who had left her for another; and also hatred against the
woman who had decoyed him from her.

She recoiled from the shocking revelation with a sense of loathing.  It
was as if she had discovered a nest of poisonous vipers writhing in her
own bosom, but which she had carefully and persistently nursed, calling
them by other names--disgrace, injured innocence, martyrdom, righteous
indignation, et cetera--hugging their stings and the corroding sores
they produced.

Immediately upon awakening to this she resolved to purify her
consciousness from what she now recognized as willful sin and
selfishness.  She conscientiously tried to divest herself of the habit
of dwelling upon the unhappy past; she strove to bury it so far out of
sight by throwing herself more heartily into her work, and into
Dorothy's interests and pleasures, that even its ghost could never
arise to confront her again.

As time passed, she gradually grew to feel that she was really rising
above it.  The clouds of depression began to lift, the sun of
prosperity melted away the mists of anxiety and care for the future,
while the appreciation and kindness of increasing friends broadened and
cheered her life in many ways.

It was generally believed among her many patrons in New York that Madam
Helen Ford was a widow.  None, barring the Jeromes, knew aught of her
history, save--according to rumor--that she had belonged to a good
family in the far West, and, having been left with a little one to rear
and educate, had, upon the advice of her friends, come East to make the
most of her beautiful voice.

Mrs. Jerome's exceeding kindness to her, upon her arrival in that
great, strange city, had at once won Helen's heart, impelling her to
confide everything to her new friend, and thus relieve herself from the
consequences of deception toward those who were doing so much for her;
and from that hour the noble woman and her husband had been like
brother and sister, and of the greatest comfort to her; while the
simple fact that the Jeromes had introduced and vouched for her to
society was sufficient guarantee to give her the entrée among some of
the most cultured people in the metropolis.

They also became very fond of Dorothy, and, having a daughter of about
the same age, made much of the girl, often inviting her to their home
and to share many of Mollie Jerome's pleasures.  The two girls became
very friendly, attended the same school, entered and graduated from
college at the same time, and thus Dorothy, aided by her own personal
attractions and sweetness of disposition, acquired a position among the
younger generation in good society that was of great advantage to her.

When Mollie Jerome made her début, Mrs. Jerome included Dorothy in the
receiving party, and in this way she also was practically introduced,
although she did not care particularly for so-called fashionable
society, neither would her circumstances allow her to keep up with its
arbitrary demands.  Nevertheless, the kindness of these friends,
together with the advantages her mother had given her, enabled her to
enjoy many delightful opportunities which otherwise she would have
missed, and fitted her for the position she was destined later to
occupy.

Now, after ten years, having made her professional début, in the home
of her good friends, she felt she was well launched upon a career that
would insure her independence for the future, and also enable her to
relieve her mother of some of the burdens she had borne alone for so
many years.

On the evening of his introduction to her, Clifford Alexander had found
her to be an exceedingly bright and cultured girl, full of energy and
spirit, yet possessing an underlying purity and sweetness of character
that were inexpressibly charming to him, who, having seen much of life
abroad and in this country, had come to regard the majority of
fashionable young ladies as frivolous and shallow, absorbed in worldly
pleasures, and possessing little love for domestic life and its sacred
duties.  Thus he had yet never met any one with whom he felt willing to
intrust his future happiness, and so had come to be regarded a
confirmed bachelor--or, as Mr. Jerome had put it, "no ladies' man."

After partaking of some refreshments together, Clifford Alexander,
desiring to prolong the interview with his companion, suggested a visit
to Mr. Jerome's wonderful library and picture gallery, which occupied
the entire fourth floor of his dwelling, and contained many rare gems,
both of art and literature, over which even connoisseurs were wont to
become enthusiastic.

Here they spent a delightful half hour, during which they discovered
much pertaining to their individual aims, pursuits, and tastes that was
congenial with each other.  Then Dorothy was obliged to return to her
mother, to assist further in the evening's entertainment.  But during
this brief interview she had unconsciously woven a magic web about the
heart of her new acquaintance, that was destined to prove far stronger
than the supposedly confirmed habit of reserve with which he had
heretofore fortified himself against all allurements of the fairer sex.

Clifford Alexander was now in his thirtieth year, and a man of no
ordinary type.  One look at him was sufficient to reveal the fact that
he possessed a masterful, purposeful individuality, a character of
unswerving integrity, and lofty ideals.  An attractive, intellectual
face; a pair of shrewd, yet genial, dark eyes; a pleasant, rich-toned
voice, with a courtly, gracious manner, all bespoke the refined,
high-minded gentleman.

Since leaving college, most of his time had been spent in Europe, where
he had attended to the foreign branch of a lucrative business
established by his father.  Now, Mr. Alexander, Senior, having recently
retired, his son had been recalled to this country to fill his place,
as the head of the house, while another member of the firm was deputed
to look after the interests abroad.

Following the evening of his introduction to them, young Alexander was
enabled to keep pretty well posted, through his friends, the
Jeromes--particularly through Miss Mollie Jerome--regarding the
engagements and movements of Madam Ford and Dorothy.  He did not fail
to make the most of this information, and thus the way was opened to
meet them frequently and cultivate their acquaintance; and it goes
without saying that he made the most of every opportunity.

Helen had been greatly attracted to him from the first, and, as the
formalities of their early interview began to melt into more friendly
relations, she gained a deeper insight of his character, which only
served to increase her admiration and respect for him.  Neither was she
unmindful of the fact that Dorothy's eyes grew brighter, her smiles
sweeter, the rose in her cheeks deeper whenever he sought her side.
Hence when, one evening, at a social function, he gravely asked her if
she would accord him the privilege of calling upon her and Miss Ford,
she cordially granted his request, even though she could not fail to
understand from his earnest manner the deeply rooted determination
which had prompted his action.

He pursued the advantage thus attained most industriously and
vigorously.  His wooing was ingenuous, straightforward, irresistible.
He loved with all his heart, and he pressed his suit with no less
earnestness of purpose.  He won the prize he coveted, and six months
from the evening of their introduction the engagement of Miss Dorothy
Ford to Mr. Clifford Alexander was formally announced to their many
friends.

That it was a most desirable and suitable alliance was the general
verdict of all who knew them.  The Alexanders, as a family, were
especially happy in view of it, for they had lost an only daughter some
years previous, and they lovingly welcomed the beautiful and talented
girl as the prospective bride of their son.

Helen was filled with joy and exceeding gratitude, and a great burden
was lifted from her heart.  Dorothy's future was most luxuriously
provided for, both in the wealth of affection bestowed upon her and the
opulence that would henceforth shield her from all care or hardship.
The name of Ford, by which Helen had never been addressed without a
secret sense of fraud, would now be swallowed up by one that no breath
of taint had ever touched, and her child would be protected from all
danger of association with the unhappy events of her youth to mar her
life.

As the engagement was to be a short one, therefore, at Mr. Alexander's
request, Dorothy withdrew from all professional work, and proceeded to
give her time and attention wholly to the delightful occupation of
preparing for her approaching marriage.



CHAPTER XI.

A SEALED BOOK REOPENED.

One day shortly after the announcement of her engagement, Dorothy
sought her mother, upon the departure of her last pupil, her face
unusually grave and a trifle careworn.

"Mamma," she began, with some hesitation, "I have been thinking, and do
you not think, that we ought to tell Clifford about--about our past?"

Helen turned upon her with a look of dismay, and flushed a startled
crimson.

This was the first time during many years that their unhappy history
had been alluded to by either; for, soon after taking up their
residence in New York, Helen had forbidden the topic.  She wished
Dorothy to forget the harrowing past, even if she herself could not;
hence it had been carefully avoided by both.  She had gradually grown
to hope, if not actually to believe, that those wretched experiences
had been blotted from her memory; or, at least, had become so vague and
indistinct that they no longer disturbed her peace.  Their life, for
the most part, had flowed on so smoothly and harmoniously, they were so
devoted to and happy in each other, and also in their social relations;
they had a delightful if not an elegant home, with every comfort and
many luxuries, while each succeeding year seemed to hold more and more
of promise for them, that this tragic chapter of the long ago had
become, even to Helen herself, very like some dream belonging to a
previous existence.

Hence Helen had not once thought of reviving the sad story in
connection with Dorothy's prospective marriage, and when the girl gave
utterance to her unexpected proposition she began to think, with a
terror-stricken heart throb, that she had, perhaps, been very remiss in
not having frankly confided to Mr. Alexander, when he had come to ask
of her Dorothy's hand in marriage, the fact of her husband's
disgraceful desertion of her, and that she was a divorced wife,
practically living under an assumed name.

This unforeseen predicament came upon her like a crushing blow, and,
for the moment, the old rebellion and resentment, which she thought she
had long ago conquered, took possession of and mastered her with even
more than the old-time bitterness and force.

How could she ever face it--this relentless test of her integrity!  It
was an ordeal before which she shrank affrighted.  Did she need to face
it?  Why not let everything go on without uncovering this grave of the
dead past, the outcome of which might prove very disastrous to
Dorothy's bright hopes, and so break her own heart?

The Alexanders were proud, high-toned people.  How would they receive
such a revelation?

What if the story of John Hungerford's disgraceful career should ruin
Dorothy's life at this supreme moment?  Suppose, in spite of their
apparently increasing affection for her, this aristocratic family
should absolutely refuse their consent to the alliance of their son
with the daughter of a divorcee?  Oh, it was passing strange that she
had not thought of all this before!  It had been forced upon her now,
however, with a shock that deprived her of every atom of strength, for
she knew the truth must be told.

"How do you feel about it, dearie?" she at length forced herself to
inquire, after an interval of silence, and to gain more time to think
before voicing a more definite reply.

"Mamma, it seems dreadful!  I cannot bear to revive unpleasant memories
for you," Dorothy began, turning a troubled face upon her.  "Still,
we----"

"But, Dorrie, our own past cannot be questioned--our lives have been
pure and above reproach.  Why, then, is it necessary to disclose that
for which we are in no way responsible?" Helen questioned, after
another long pause.  "We have not heard a word from--from him during
all these years.  He may be dead--I think he must have died, or we
should have heard something.  At any rate, he is dead to us!  Why,
then, resurrect all that dreadful story?"

Her voice quivered with repressed agony, and there was a note of
despairing appeal in her tones that smote her listener keenly.

"But would it be quite honest not to tell Clifford?  My name is really
Dorothy Hungerford, you know," she gravely responded.

"The decree gave me the right to resume my maiden name, or to retain
his--whichever I chose.  If I preferred to keep the latter portion of
his, I cannot think there would be any dishonesty in your being married
as Dorothy Ford," Helen argued, but not feeling quite comfortable or
honest in the position she had assumed.

"All the same, there would be a deceptive thought back of it--something
to conceal from my husband, which might some time cloud our lives if it
should be discovered later," Dorothy persisted, a troubled look in her
eyes.

Helen groaned bitterly in spirit.  She knew that the girl's attitude
was the only safe one to adopt, but she shrank from the ordeal with a
sickening dread.

"Have you no fear that this confession may cloud your life even before
your hopes are realized?" she questioned, almost sharply, in her
despair.

"Mamma, surely you do not fear _that_!" Dorothy cried, aghast, her face
blanching suddenly snow white.

"The Alexanders are very proud," sighed her mother.

"Oh, I never thought of anything so dreadful!" said the girl
unsteadily.  "I have such faith in Clifford's love for me.  The only
reason I have hesitated was because I could not bear to wound you by
recalling our trouble, by having to tell any one what you have had to
bear.  But now"--with a sudden dauntless uplifting of her head--"I must
tell him immediately.  If there is the least danger that this
disclosure will change his regard for, or his intentions toward, me, or
will make trouble between him and his people, it is better to know and
meet it now than when it would be too late to remedy the mistake."

"But could you bear it, Dorrie?" almost sobbed Helen.  "Think, dear,
what the worst would mean to you."

"_Whatever_ comes, I _must bear it_!  I cannot, will not, live a lie!"
was the low-voiced, firm, but almost inaudible reply.

"I know you are right, dear; but it seems so unjust that the innocent
should have to suffer as we have suffered for the sins of another,"
said Helen rebelliously.

Throughout their conversation there had been running in her mind, like
a mocking refrain, a portion of the old Mosaic law--"visiting the
iniquity of the fathers upon the children," et cetera--and she found
herself vaguely wondering who could have formulated such a law.  She
could not believe God had made it, for God was good--Love, and surely
there was nothing good or lovely about this seeming curse.  Yet it had
been handed down for ages--a menace to every generation.  It was
certainly very cruel.  Here was Dorothy, a beautiful, cultivated girl,
well fitted to grace the position her lover could give her, and now, to
have her brilliant prospects blighted just on the verge of fulfillment
seemed too dreadful to contemplate.

Again there had been a long silence between mother and daughter, during
which each had battled with her troubled thoughts and conflicting
emotions.

At length Dorothy arose, and, going to Helen, knelt down before her,
leaned her elbows upon her lap, and dropped her pretty chin into her
small, white hands.

"Mamma, I am sure we will not have to suffer for being true," she said,
lifting a clear, smiling look to her.  "How faithless we are!  How
disloyal of me to think anything so unworthy of the best man that ever
lived!  I am not going to fear that telling the truth, in order that I
may go to Clifford with a clear conscience, will spoil my life; he is
too high-minded, too noble, to allow a wrong for which I am in no way
responsible to part us.  But--even if I knew it would, I should tell
him all the same; it is the only honorable course to pursue," she
concluded, with a look in her beautiful eyes that bespoke a purpose as
unflinching as the spirit of a martyr.

Helen bent and kissed her on the forehead.

"You shame me, dear; but I know you are right," she said humbly, but
adding, with a shiver of repugnance: "Do you want _me_ to tell him,
Dorrie?  If it will save you----"

"No, indeed, mamma, dear!  I could not think of subjecting you to
anything so dreadful," interposed the brave girl, a quiver of repulsion
in her tones.  "I wish _I_ could have saved _you_ this trial," she went
on yearningly; "but I knew it would not be right to keep the truth from
Clifford, and now I want to tell him myself, because--I must look
straight into his dear eyes as he listens; then I shall know----"

"Oh, darling, forgive me if I have aroused a doubt in your
thought--have implanted a fear in your heart, that he will not stand
the test!" cried Helen remorsefully, as Dorothy's voice suddenly
faltered and failed her.

"You have not," returned her companion, almost defiantly.  "_I know he
is true blue_.  I will not think anything else."

So Dorothy told her lover her story, "looking straight into his eyes,"
when he came to her that evening, keeping nothing back, nor trying to
gloss anything over; and when she was done, like the true-hearted man
he was, Clifford Alexander gathered her into his arms, murmuring fondly:

"Sweetheart, put it all out of your mind; never give it another anxious
thought, for it belongs among the shades of the dim past, and the
present and the future are all that concern us now.  Just know that I
love you for what you are, and that I honor your mother for the noble
woman that she is.  She has shown wonderful fortitude during all these
years, and deserves the highest esteem of every one.  As for your--that
man--whether he be living or dead, he has passed forever out of your
life; so be happy, dearest, and let none of these memories ever cloud
your dear eyes again, or cause your dear heart a single tremor."

"Clifford!  Clifford!" tremulously breathed Dorothy, while she clung to
the strong arm enfolding her.  "I knew you would not fail me."

But she was quivering in every nerve with repressed excitement, from
the reaction produced by the blessed assurance of his unimpeachable
loyalty, the unfailing love that was the light of her life, and had
safely weathered this crucial hour.

"Fail you, Dorothy!" he repeated, surprise and reproof blending in his
tones.  "Could I fail to cling to what is my very life?  I am glad you
told me, however; it shows the confidence you repose in me, and proves
your absolute integrity," he concluded, with a smile that made her
thrice glad she had not been tempted to withhold the truth from him.

Helen's troubled heart was also set at rest, when, later, they sought
her with radiant faces, and Clifford delicately yet feelingly referred
to her early trials, and earnestly begged that she would allow him to
be to her, through all her future, a son in truth as well as in name.

Thus, with all fear regarding Dorothy's future forever dispelled, as
she fondly believed, she joyfully resumed her preparations for their
approaching union.



CHAPTER XII.

THE SOUBRETTE.

Helen had seemed almost to renew her youth while making ready for
Dorothy's marriage, and had thrown herself into the business before her
with no less enthusiasm than that manifested by the fair bride-elect
herself.

She simply reveled in choosing the dainty and pretty things that were
to comprise the trousseau, while with her own skillful fingers she
fashioned many lovely accessories, which, had she purchased them, would
have been very expensive, if not entirely beyond her means.

Dorothy was to go into a beautiful and sumptuous home; she would mingle
with fashionable and wealthy people, whom, in turn, she would also have
to entertain; and, with rare judgment and faultless taste, Helen had
planned an ample outfit for her, that was both elegant and suitable for
all occasions, yet without being too costly for her income.

One morning, a few days after Dorothy had related the story of their
early troubles to her lover, mother and daughter started forth upon one
of their interesting shopping expeditions.  They were in their
brightest mood, for, with the happy termination of the much-dreaded
ordeal which their sense of honor had compelled them to face, with a
free conscience, and increased love and respect for the man who was
soon to assume closer relations with them, the world seemed all rose
color and gold to these devoted chums as they pursued their way
downtown with a long list of items upon their memorandum tablets.

They spent a busy morning together, after which they had a light lunch,
when, at one o'clock, Dorothy had an appointment with her dressmaker,
and Helen went back to the stores alone.

Among other things, there were handkerchiefs to be selected, and she
slipped into Rolston's to see what she could find there.  As she paused
before the counter, she found herself standing beside a woman who was
evidently waiting for her change and her purchase to be returned.
Something about her figure and the contour of her face--which, she
observed, was heavily powdered and rouged--impelled Helen to take a
second look; when, as if actuated by some occult influence, the
stranger turned a bold, rude stare upon her, and chain lightning could
hardly have been more swift or blinding than the blazing, spiteful look
which leaped into her eyes as they swept Helen from head to foot.

A vindictive sneer began to curl her full, red lips; her heavy brows
contracted in an ugly, frown, as, with a mocking shrug of her shapely
shoulders, she shot forth a single venom-barbed word:

"Well!"

Instantly, with a shock that seemed to cleave her heart in twain, Helen
recognized her.

She was the soubrette, Marie Duncan, with whom John Hungerford had gone
abroad ten years ago, and whom he had afterward married.  But she was
no longer the gay, captivating coquette she had been when she had lured
him from his allegiance to his family.  Her form had grown stout, less
symmetrical than of yore; her features coarse and sensuous; her skin
had become rough and porous, from too free use of cosmetics, and
evidently the world was not at present using her very well, for she was
cheaply clothed, though with a tawdry attempt at style which only
accentuated the fact of her poverty.

The terror inspired by this startling encounter was simply paralyzing
to Helen.  She deigned no reply to the actress' rude salutation; but,
with a mighty effort to preserve her self-control, turned to a clerk,
and, with a semblance of composure which she was far from feeling,
inquired for what she wanted.

The woman stood watching her for a minute or two, the sneer still
curling her lips, as, with jealous eyes, she noted every detail of her
costly, tailor-made costume, her simple though stylish hat, her
perfectly fitting gloves, and the elegant shopping bag which she
carried.  Then, with a mocking, sibilant laugh that made her listener's
flesh creep with painful revulsion, she swept insolently past her, and
was lost in the crowd.

Helen selected a dozen handkerchiefs at random, gave her address to
have them sent to her; then, half fainting, a blinding haze before her
eyes, a deafening ringing in her ears, groped her way from the store,
and boarded a car for home.

All the way uptown she sat like one dazed, vaguely wondering what had
happened to her.  Her heart lay like a great stone in her bosom; all
her strength and vigor seemed suddenly to have withered within her, and
the whole world to have grown dark, and desolate, and threatening.

"It cannot be," she moaned, as she entered her apartment and
mechanically began to remove her hat and coat.  "How can I bear it?
Oh, to have struggled all these years to outlive that dreadful
experience, only to be faced with it anew at such a time as this!"

She shivered as she recalled the brazen, defiant, mocking looks the
woman had bestowed upon her; and that hissing, menacing laugh--what did
she mean by it?  She wondered if John had come back to this country
with her--where and how they were living.  Marie's clothing had told
its own story of poverty and makeshift; perhaps now they would try to
find her again; John might even seek to extort money from her as of
old, and she would be subjected to a system of blackmail to protect
herself and Dorothy from a harrowing scandal.

She had tried to make herself believe that she would never see either
of them again; she had long ago felt a sense of freedom in the thought
that John must be dead, or she certainly would have heard something of,
or from, him; and she shuddered now as she remembered that she had
never quite dared to hope he was.  It was a murderous thought, she
knew; but, living, she felt she could never forgive him--dead, she
could at least try to forget him.

She was almost in despair, in view of this unexpected reappearance of
Marie, which threatened to make havoc of her life.  Must she tell
Dorothy, to spoil her present happiness and cloud her approaching
nuptials?  No, she would not, she resolutely affirmed.  It would be
hard to bear her burden in silence, and wear a happy exterior, but she
would, she must, rise to the occasion and help her carry out her plans
as if nothing had happened--unless circumstances made it impossible to
do so.

She sat for hours, brooding wretchedly upon the situation--until she
heard Dorothy's step on the stairs, when she braced herself to greet
her with her usual welcoming smile as she entered the room.

The following week Dorothy was invited to spend a few days with the
Alexanders, at their delightful home on the Hudson.  Helen had also
been included in the invitation, but excused herself because of
appointments with pupils and an entertainment for which she had to
prepare.  She thought it would, perhaps, be a relief to have Dorothy
away for a while, at least, until she could recover more fully from the
shock she had received, and she willingly let her go alone.

While engaged with her pupils Helen found no time for brooding; but
when the lessons were over and she was released from all restraint, she
could not control her thoughts, and the fear and unrest of the previous
week assailed her again.

The second day of Dorothy's absence, which was the Sabbath, she felt
that she could no longer bear the loneliness and silence, which were
intensified and made hideous by haunting memories of her unhappy past;
and she now deeply regretted that she had not heeded Mrs. Alexander's
plea that she would at least join their house party for over Sunday.
She was half tempted even now to take an early boat and go to them,
just for the day; but, having once definitely refused the invitation,
she did not like to retract; but do something, go somewhere, she must
to distract her mind; she could not spend that long day alone with her
wretched thoughts.

She mechanically dressed herself for the street, and, boarding an
uptown car, finally alighted near one of the entrances to Central Park.

As she stepped upon the sidewalk her attention was attracted by a
stream of well-dressed people that were pouring into a great church not
a stone's throw beyond where she stood.

Almost unconsciously she mingled with the crowd, passing with it into
the beautiful temple, and up into the great auditorium, where the
mellow sunlight, streaming in through the richly tinted windows, seemed
to fall upon the gathering hundreds like a sacred, soothing
benediction; while the wonderful organ, responding to the touch of
skillful hands, rolled forth its paean of joyous greeting.

A gentlemanly usher approached and offered to give her a seat, leading
her almost to the center of the house, where, thanking him for his
courtesy, she dropped into a luxuriously cushioned pew, wondering, with
a sense akin to dismay, what occult influences could have combined to
guide her wandering feet thither, instead of into the park, for which
she had started.

Presently she began to look about the elegantly appointed edifice,
noting its softly tinted walls and beautiful windows; its rich and
massive woodwork, its costly carpeting and upholstery.

Then her glance swept over the congregation, and she found herself
mentally exclaiming, with a pang of keen pain piercing her heart: "What
a multitude of happy, peaceful faces!  Where did they come from?  What
is the secret of their joy?"

Presently the organ ceased, and the opening hymn was announced--an old,
familiar tune, and lines that her mother had once loved to sing:

  In heav'nly love abiding,
  No change my heart shall fear.


Quick, tender tears welled to her eyes--it almost seemed as if her
mother were there beside her as the organ softly played it through;
then a sense of awe fell upon her at the sublime burst of harmony that
followed.  She had never heard anything like it before.  Everybody was
singing, and yet the magnificent volume of sound that surged upward
into space from that many-throated congregation was like one grand,
gloriously inspired voice pouring forth its harmonious notes of praise
to the author of "heavenly love."

She never forgot it; it was like the momentary lifting of the opaque
curtain 'twixt earth and heaven, beyond which she caught a fleeting
glimpse of fields elysian, the entrance to which must be through the
Gate of Love alone.

The Bible reading followed, but she did not give much heed to it, for
the spell produced by the music was still upon her, though now and then
she caught a phrase which impressed her that Love was the subject or
text chosen for the day, until suddenly, like a solemn message from
Sinai, thundered out to her alone, came the startling words: "Whosoever
hateth his brother is a murderer."

She sat erect, every sense now alert, and listened to the closing
passage: "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he
love God, whom he has not seen?"

She did not hear another consecutive sentence.  She sat like one
benumbed throughout the service, but with her heart in a turmoil such
as she had never experienced before--the words "love" and "hate"
ringing continual changes in her thought.

She thought she had always known their full import; she had read those
passages from the Bible perhaps a hundred times; but never until now
had she been arraigned before the bar of an inexorable judge, to be
sifted as wheat in the thought, and purpose, and intents of her heart
toward her brother man.

When the benediction was pronounced, a richly clad woman who had been
sitting beside her turned, with cordially extended hand, to greet her.
She was very beautiful to look upon, with peace written on every line
of her face, love shining in her clear blue eyes, and a crown of
snow-white hair rippling above her forehead; and yet she could not have
been fifty years of age.

"I think you are a stranger here?" she observed, with a smile that
almost made Helen weep, it was so sunny, yet so sympathetic.  "I hope
you have enjoyed our service."

What was there about her that so summarily broke down Helen's habitual
self-control?  She never could account for it afterward, but before she
was really aware of what she was saying she burst forth:

"What _is_ love?  What is--_hate_?"

"My dear," returned the stranger, with exceeding gentleness, while she
studied Helen's set features with compassionate eyes, "that is a
question which cannot be elucidated in a moment; but let me say, as I
read your thought just now, love is not emotion, sentiment, mere
personal attachment; it is the abiding desire to do good to our
neighbor--to all men--for the _love of doing good_.  'Hate' is
criticism, condemnation, resentment.  Are you in haste?" she added,
with a winning smile.  "Could you stop for a little talk with me?"

"I could not this morning," said Helen, with unsteady lips and voice,
and just on the verge of a nervous burst of tears.

"Then, will you come again some time?  I am always in this pew on
Sunday morning, and will be glad to see you.  Good-by, dear."  She
slipped a card into Helen's hand, and turned to greet another, for she
saw that her recent companion needed to be left to herself for the
present.

Helen quickly made her way from the church, anxious to get away from
the crowd, and, crossing the street, entered Central Park.  She was
nearly spent with the inward conflict she had been undergoing during
the last hour, and she was eager to get out into the open, under the
blue sky and green trees, to be alone, to think, to analyze the new and
startling phase of her own character that had been so strangely
revealed to her.

She glanced at the card in her hand.  "Mrs. Raymond B. Everleigh," she
read, and somehow the euphonious name soothed and appealed to her even
as the beautiful face and winning voice of the woman had done.

She strolled slowly about for a while, thinking deeply along the new
lines suggested by what she had just heard within the church.  Love,
she had learned, was not a mere emotion or sentiment, to be put on or
off according to the attraction to or repulsion for the personality of
those with whom one lives or mingles.  No, she had just been awakened
to see it possessed a far deeper, higher significance than that.

Love--to be love--must be a motive power, an indwelling principle, an
all-absorbing desire always impelling one to do good.  To do good to
whom?  To all men, she had been told.

And hate?  "Hate is criticism, condemnation, resentment," she repeated,
a shiver sweeping swiftly through her frame.

"Oh, I have never really _loved_!" she breathed, with an inward sense
of aversion for herself.  "But--I have hated all my life!  I have
simply been clinging to selfish, pleasurable emotions and sentiment,
which have been aroused by the personal attractions and pleasing
qualities of my friends, my child, and other dear ones, and which I
have _called_ love; but I begin to see something which I have never
dreamed of before."

She dropped upon a near-by seat, to try to think out the problem more
clearly; but the subject seemed infinite, and a sense of depression
began to fall upon her as she became more and more involved in its
intricacies.

A sudden burst of merry laughter at length aroused her from her
reverie, and she gradually became interested in other visitors to the
park, and particularly in some happy children, who were abandoning
themselves to the charms and freedom of the place and to their games.

Carriages and other equipages were continually passing along the broad
avenue, and presently her attention was attracted by a party of gay
people who were approaching in an automobile.  They were laughing and
talking boisterously, and, as they drew nearer and then passed, a woman
leaned forward in the vehicle and leered at her.

It was Marie Duncan, the soubrette!

Helen was almost convulsed with inward terror as she met her eyes, but
she made no visible sign that she had recognized her, and the car swept
on.



CHAPTER XIII.

A TRYING INTERVIEW.

It could not have been more than five or ten minutes later, and before
she had recovered any degree of composure, when rapidly approaching
footsteps caused Helen to turn and glance over her shoulder, to find
the actress almost beside her.

"Mrs. Hungerford appears to be enjoying an outing this bright day, as
well as others," the woman observed, in a flippant tone.

Helen shrank sensitively at the sound of the old name, but made no
reply, and arose to pass on.

"Sit down!" curtly commanded her companion.  "I have something to say
to you; you need not pretend that you do not know me, for you do, and I
have no intention of being ignored."

"You certainly can have nothing to say to me that I care to hear,"
Helen quietly returned.

"Indeed!" retorted Marie, with a short laugh.  "Well, now, perhaps you
may find yourself mistaken.  At any rate, it may be for your interest
to listen to me.  To begin with, and not to mince matters, I want some
money."

"Money!" repeated Helen, amazed at the audacious demand.

"Exactly.  You appear to be in very comfortable circumstances, Mrs.
Hungerford," said the actress, sweeping a comprehensive glance over
Helen's rich and tasteful costume.  "Fate seems to have treated you
very kindly during the last ten years, and it is only fair that you
should share the good things the gods have bestowed upon you with one
less fortunate.  Really, madam," she continued, with insolent sarcasm,
"you appear to have gotten on better without your husband than you did
with him; you must have become possessed of some potent mascot which
has enabled you to rise above adverse circumstances and provide so
handsomely for yourself.  I heard, the last time I was in San
Francisco, that you were in New York, making a lot of money as a crack
music teacher; that you had given your daughter a fine education and
many accomplishments; that you were living in luxury, and had made many
influential friends.  All this must have cost you a pretty sum, and
your accounts can't be very small with your milliner and tailor,
either, both of whom certainly do you and themselves great credit.
Pray tell me how you have accomplished it all?  I know you are a good
manager; John told me that, and----"

"Where is he?"  The question slipped out almost before Helen was aware
of what she was saying.  She only knew she feared he might have been
with the party in the auto and would also appear upon the scene before
she could get away.

"Blessed if I know, or care!" was the indifferent response.  "I gave
him the grand bounce three years ago."

"Do you mean----" Helen began, then checked herself.  Why should she
lower herself talking with this coarse creature?  Why ask questions or
seek information from her?  What did it matter to her what she had or
had not done, or what her relations with John now were?

"Do I mean that I divorced him?" the actress surmised the import of her
question, and caught her up.  "That is exactly what I did, and glad
enough I was to be free from the lazy hanger-on!  I was a fool ever to
have anything to do with him.  He had quite a bunch of money when we
first went abroad, but when that was gone he just played the gentleman,
and let me take care of him.  I haven't seen him since--he may be dead,
for all I know."

The heartlessness of her tone as she concluded implied that she did not
care if he were dead, and Helen remembered with a thrill of horror how
a sense of freedom had come to her with the same thought, not long ago.
Could it be possible that she had fallen to the level of this vulgar
woman?  What was the motive that prompted them both to wish another
human being out of the world?  What but hate, the deadliest of all
impulses.  The words she had recently heard smote her again, with
accusing force: "He that hateth his brother is a murderer."

The thought was so repulsive to her that involuntarily she threw out
her hand in a gesture of repugnance and self-aversion.

"I'm looking out for number one now, but I've had hard luck the past
year," the actress resumed, her eyes dropping, with a look of greed, to
the silver purse in Helen's hand.  "I've _got_ to have some money, and
I--I think, madam, you will find it to your interest to--to hand over a
few dollars to me now and then."

Helen's eyes began to blaze, in view of the underlying menace implied
more by the woman's tone than by her words.

"I!  Why should _I_ give you money?" she indignantly demanded.

"Well, I think you owe me something for taking care of that husband of
yours for seven or eight years."

"He wasn't my husband!" Helen sharply interposed.

The woman laughed derisively.

"Well, then, for taking him off your hands; surely that was doing you a
good turn, and you should not begrudge me a share in the luck you have
had since you got rid of him."

Helen was disgusted.  She felt degraded to be standing there and
bandying words with her, and she turned resolutely away, determined to
put an end to the revolting interview.

Her companion planted herself in her path.

"Oh, don't be in such a hurry, Mrs. Hungerford; for really you will
have to open that pretty purse for me before you go," she said
peremptorily.

"I shall give you no money," Helen firmly replied.

"I--think you--will, or----"

"What do you mean to imply?"

"I don't believe you would like to have that old scandal rehearsed here
in New York," said the actress, in a menacing tone.

"You would not dare----" began Helen excitedly, and heartsick at the
thought.

"One will dare most anything when one comes to the end of one's rope,
and hasn't any friends to fall back on," was the dogged response.

"Aren't you on the stage now?"

"No."

"Why not?"

The erstwhile actress shrugged her shoulders and made a grimace.

"Passée," she observed laconically, adding: "Besides, it has got to be
a grind, as John used to say when he had anything like work to do."

Helen with difficulty repressed a cry as this old, familiar phrase fell
upon her ears; but she drew herself haughtily erect.

"I shall give you no money," she reiterated.

The actress laughed in her face.

"I was told in San Francisco that your daughter has grown to be a
beautiful young woman," she said.  "How do you think she would enjoy
having her father's history served up in the newspapers here?  It would
be a sweet morsel for your fine acquaintances--wouldn't it?--with the
pictures of all three of you, and mine to go with them, to head the
chapter!  And I have them; I found them among John's things, and have
kept them all these years.  Now, I will sell them to you for a fair
consideration, or I will give them, with that savory story, to the
first reporter who will make it worth my while."

This terrible threat nearly caused Helen to collapse.  At the same time
her brain was very active as she reviewed the situation.  Marie had
several times addressed her as Mrs. Hungerford, which convinced her
that, although she had managed to obtain considerable information
regarding her in San Francisco--how, she could not comprehend--it was
evident she had not learned that she had repudiated her name;
consequently, even if she attempted to give her story to the
newspapers, it was doubtful if any one would suspect that Madam Helen
Ford, the popular drawing-room artiste, of New York, was once the
wronged and deserted wife of John Hungerford, of California.

She had changed much in appearance, and Dorothy had entirely outgrown
her girlish looks; hence those old photographs, even if reproduced in
the newspapers, would not be associated with either herself or her
daughter, for such cuts were seldom much better than caricatures, even
at their best.  She believed she would really gain nothing if she
yielded to the actress' demand that she buy them from her, for, having
once obtained money in this way, she would doubtless follow up her
advantage with other efforts of a similar nature, and thus subject her
to an intolerable bondage.

As these thoughts flashed through her mind, Helen took courage and
began to lose her temper at the same time.

"I shall pay you nothing for those photographs, or bribe you to
silence," she spiritedly returned, "and if you are so lost to all sense
of honor and humanity as to seek to bring disgrace upon two innocent
and long-suffering people, who, for years, have patiently struggled to
rise above the desperate conditions imposed upon them through no fault
of their own, you will have to take whatever satisfaction you may reap
in carrying out your malicious purpose----"

"You will be sorry for this, madam----"

"You have told me that John had plenty of money when he went abroad
with you," Helen continued, without heeding the interruption, while she
looked straight into the bold, insolent eyes of her companion.  "Do you
know where he got that money which he frittered away upon you and his
selfish, ignoble, unlawful pleasures?  _He stole it from his own
child_!  It was a small legacy left me by my father, and, when I began
to realize how improvident John was, I put it sacredly away in
Dorothy's name, to save it for her education.  When I was about to
leave San Francisco, I went to the bank where this money had been
deposited, to withdraw it, to help me make a new start in life.  I was
told that Mr. Hungerford, as the legal guardian of his child, had
closed the account some months previous.  This dastardly deed left us
penniless.  The blow crushed me--bereft me of both courage and hope,
for the time.  How much of this legacy John may have spent upon you I
have no means of knowing!  Doubtless no small part of it, for he was
lavish as long as he had a dollar in his pocket.  Now, in view of these
circumstances, my refusal to comply with your present demand may not,
perhaps, seem so unreasonable as at first you appeared to regard it."

A great change had come over the actress while Helen was talking.  At
first she had faced her with brazen assurance, her eyes flashing anger
and defiance when Helen dared her to carry out her malicious purpose;
but when she had told her that John had stolen the money from his
child, immediately following his desertion of his family, a hot, swift
flush mounted to her brow, her face fell, and her aggressive attitude
was supplanted by evident discomfiture and humiliation.

She stood silent and thoughtful for a full minute after Helen ceased
speaking, and when at length she slowly lifted her heavily fringed lids
the previous expression of mockery and malice in her eyes had been
replaced by a look of mingled dejection and shame.

"Well--you've won!" she began, in a low, repressed tone; then she
suddenly turned her back upon Helen, and stood looking stoically off
over the green slope beyond them, where the happy children were still
playing, their fresh young voices and joyous laughter falling musically
upon the summer air.

Helen watched her curiously, something in her attitude instinctively
appealing to her, and preventing her from using her opportunity to slip
away from the place, as she was half tempted to do.

Presently the woman turned back to her, with an evident effort to
control the emotions that had well-nigh overcome her.

"Yes, you've won," she repeated, her chin quivering in spite of her.
"You've given me a facer I didn't expect, and I have nothing more to
say.  You needn't be afraid, either, that I will ever lift a finger to
harm you or the girl, after this.  You're game, through and through, to
have stood up under all that I know you have--to say nothing about that
money--and weathered the breakers.  I'm far from being a saint, but I
am not all bad, and I do love little children.  I used to think I would
love to have a home, like other people, and a little daughter of my
own, and I would live on crusts before I would ever rob a child of its
birthright, and if I have helped to squander your girl's, why--I--it
won't be very comfortable to remember for the rest of my days."

Her voice suddenly broke, and she was obliged to pause.

"Life is a strange muddle," she presently went on, with a queer catch
in her breath, while she searched Helen's white face with a look of
mingled respect and yearning, "and woman, somehow, seems to get the
worst of it in the struggle.  Some of us drift with the current when
troubles come, and go steadily downstream to our ruin; others, like
you, resolutely grip the helm, and work their way back to a safe
harbor.  I will never cross your path again, Helen Hungerford--you are
justly entitled to the victory you have gained over adverse
circumstances without being made to fight your battles all over again.
I've envied you, and I've hated you, for John was continually throwing
your superior virtues in my face; but you have robbed me of my fangs
today, and from now on I will never place a straw in your path."

Without pausing for a reply, the woman turned abruptly, and walked
swiftly away, leaving Helen dazed and speechless, in view of this
unexpected termination of the exciting interview.

When she began to recover from her astonishment the actress was out of
sight, and a sudden revulsion of feeling assailed her.  A great pity
welled up in her heart for the unfortunate woman whose lot in life, she
was sure, had not been an easy one; perchance it had been even harder
than her own.  She had acknowledged that she was passée, that her
profession had become a grind, and that she was in desperate need of
money.  Her clothing was cheap--shabby genteel--perhaps she even knew
what it was to be hungry--and Helen wished now she could call her back
and give her some money.

"Truly life is a strange problem," she said to herself, as she slowly
wended her way from the park and boarded her car for home, her spirit
chastened by the experiences of the day, her heart strangely softened
toward Marie Duncan, for whom she had always entertained only
condemnation and resentment--bitter hate--because she had robbed her of
her husband, and entailed a lifelong blight upon her own future.

Now she was almost moved to tears for her.  Surely she was "not all
bad," as she had said, for, down deep in her heart, there was a germ of
good, some redeeming qualities, which, under right conditions, might
have expanded and ripened into a noble womanhood; for she "loved little
children;" she had even yearned for "a little daughter" of her own.
Who could say, had that sacred heart longing for motherhood been
gratified, but that she might have become a power for great good in the
world--the matron of a happy home, the mother of a promising family?

Three days later, on taking up the morning paper, Helen read of a
shocking accident that had occurred the previous evening.  A party of
actors and actresses had been precipitated down an embankment while
returning from an out-of-town automobile trip.  The chauffeur had lost
control of his car, which he was running at a reckless speed; two had
been instantly killed and three badly injured.  Two of the latter were
in a fair way to recover, but the once brilliant and beautiful Marie
Duncan, of light-opera fame, was now lying in the Mercy Hospital,
hovering between life and death, with no hope of recovery.

"How strange, and how dreadful!" murmured Helen, in a tone of awe.
Marie had told her that she was no longer before the public, that she
was "passée," and without money; that she had, in fact, "come to the
end of her rope."  It seemed now almost like a prophecy come true.
Helen wondered if she had a friend in the world to be with her, or to
do anything for her in this supreme hour of her life.

She sat thinking for a long time, evidently seriously considering some
important move, for her face wore a grave and perplexed expression,
while every now and then she restlessly changed her position, as if her
thoughts annoyed her.

At length she aroused herself, and deliberately tore the paper she had
been reading into atoms.

"Dorrie must not see this," she muttered, an anxious look in her eyes.
Then she started violently, sprang to her feet, scattering the
fragments upon the floor, and went directly to her telephone.

"Good morning, Mr. Alexander!  I hoped you would answer me," she said,
when the connection she had asked for was made.  "Everything is well
with you all, I trust?  Dorrie not down yet!  Well, it is a little
early, perhaps.  Have you seen the morning papers?  Have you read about
the shocking accident of last evening?

"Oh, thank you!  How very thoughtful!  I could not rest until I had
asked you to destroy it," she said tremulously, as the answer to her
query had come back, assuring her that the paper had already been
burned, and Dorothy should be tenderly guarded from every possible
chance of seeing the name that could not fail to recall the unhappy
past.

They conversed for a moment or two longer; then Helen hung up the
receiver, the cloud of anxiety gone from her brow and a great burden
from her heart.

She gathered up the pieces of torn paper and threw them into the
wastebasket; then, hurriedly dressing for the street, she went out.



CHAPTER XIV.

"LOVE THY NEIGHBOR."

Helen hastened to the Mercy Hospital with all possible speed.  At the
office she gave her name as Mrs. Helen Hungerford, and was quick to
observe that a peculiar look flitted over the face of the gentlemanly
attendant as she did so.

She inquired for Marie Duncan, and was told that although the woman was
comparatively free from pain, and her mind clear, her injuries were of
such a nature that she could not live many hours.

"Would it be possible for me to see her?" Helen inquired.

She believed that the once popular favorite was utterly friendless, as
well as penniless--in fact, she had practically admitted as much, and
with the revulsion of feeling that had followed after Marie had shown
the better side of her nature, there had come the desire to help the
unfortunate woman in some way.  Hence, when she had read of the
terrible accident and its probable fatal termination, she had hurried
to the hospital to ascertain if she could be of some comfort to her in
this bitter extremity, all her aversion and resentment submerged in
pity for one who was nearing the dark river of death.

She was not a little surprised, however, when in response to her
inquiry the attendant observed:

"It really seems a singular coincidence, madam, but the woman has
begged at intervals during the night that we should send for a Mrs.
Helen Hungerford; however, as she was unable to give us the address,
and it could not be found in the directory, it has, of course, been
impossible to grant her request.  If you will be seated, I will send
some one to ascertain if you can be admitted to the patient," he
concluded, as he courteously placed a chair for her.

Helen marveled at what she had heard.  What could Marie Duncan want of
her?  It certainly was a peculiar situation--unique, she believed, in
the annals of history, that she, the discarded wife of John Hungerford,
should be entreated to come to the bedside of the dying woman who had
robbed her of her husband!  It was even more strange that she should
have been impelled to come to her without a suspicion of Marie's desire
for her presence.  Perhaps she wished to leave with her some message
for John, in case he were still living, and ever sought her again.

Helen shrank with repulsion from the thought, and almost regretted that
she had come.  She had no desire ever to see him again, much less to be
the bearer of any last words from Marie to him.  She was beginning to
be exceedingly nervous and uncomfortable, the more she thought of the
approaching interview, when the messenger returned and said the nurse
wished her to come immediately upstairs.

She was presently ushered into a small room on the second floor, at the
back of the building, and experienced a great sense of relief upon
finding that she was not to be subjected to the trying scenes of a
ward, as she had feared.

Marie Duncan, white and wan, but looking far more womanly with the
paint and powder of a few days previous removed from her face, threw
out an eager hand to her as she drew near her cot.

"Oh, I am sure God must have sent you!" she said weakly.  "I have
wanted you so, but they"--glancing at the nurse, who, having placed a
chair for the visitor, was moving toward an adjoining room--"could not
find your name in the directory, and I thought I'd have to go without
seeing you."

Almost unconsciously Helen clasped the hand extended to her, and
dropped into the rocker beside the bed.

"I came just as soon as I read about the accident," she said.

"_Why_ did you come?" questioned Marie, her beautiful dark eyes
hungrily searching Helen's face.

"I--don't know--unless it was because you told me you had no friends."

"What could it matter to you whether I had or not?" almost sharply
demanded the patient.  "You must hate me like the d----"

She checked herself suddenly, with a gasp and an appealing look at
Helen for pardon, in view of her slip.

Helen bent nearer to her as she replied, with grave gentleness:

"I am afraid I have thought very unkindly of you--at least, until last
Sunday.  I am glad to say I do not feel the same to-day."

"And I tried to _blackmail_ you last Sunday!" said Marie, with a bitter
curl of her white lips.

"I know; but you also showed me something of your better self, which
made me regret that I had not been a little more kind to you.  I would
have given you some money after that, if you had not left me so
suddenly.  But," Helen continued, with a glance at the door through
which the nurse had disappeared, "I am afraid we are talking too much
for your good----"

"Talking won't harm me now," the woman interposed, her brows
contracting painfully.  "I know I have, at last, really got to the 'end
of my rope.'  I'm glad, though, it is not an end of my own making.
I've sometimes thought that might be the easiest way out of this muddle
we call life; but somehow I was ashamed to sneak out of a hard place in
such a way, even though I'd leave nobody behind to care."

"They told me downstairs that you were wishing to see me," Helen broke
in to change the gruesome subject.  "Why did you want them to send for
me?  Is there anything I can do for your comfort, now that I am here?"

Marie lifted her great eyes and searched her companion's face curiously.

"For my comfort!  _You!_" she cried; then hastened to add: "No, but _I_
wanted to do something for you and your girl.  I haven't had a very
pleasant time since you told me about that money, and I want to give
you those newspapers and photographs, so that they will not fall into
the hands of any one else, to make mischief for you.  This is my bag,
hanging here on the bed; will you open it for me?"

Helen took down the receptacle, and did as she had been requested.

"There is a ring of keys in it.  This one"--as Helen handed them to
her--"is the house key--number one hundred and one Fourth Street, where
I've lived lately; this unlocks the door of my room, and this is the
key to my trunk--I've got reduced to one, and there isn't very much
that is worth anything in it, either," she interposed, with a bitter
smile.  "Those newspapers and pictures are at the bottom; take them,
and do what you choose with them.  My marriage certificate is there,
too, in a wallet.  I'd like you to destroy it.  It hasn't meant very
much to me, for I have never felt as if I were really John's wife, or
that I had any guarantee in it that he would remain true, and not
divorce me, the same as he did you.  In my opinion, divorces are worse
than Mormonism," she sarcastically interposed, "for Mormons can't shirk
their responsibilities after they have got tired of one wife and taken
another."

She paused to rest for a moment or two; then resumed:

"I have never used his name very much, and I would prefer no one else
to see the certificate; most people have always called me, and I am
perfectly willing to have them remember me only as, Marie Duncan."

Helen was surprised and deeply touched as she listened to her.  What
she had said hinted at more depth of character than she had ever given
her credit for; while her wish to have only herself see the
certificate, and her evident desire to be remembered only by her stage
name, betrayed a delicate consideration for her and Dorothy that caused
her to feel even more kindly toward her.

"I know it will not be a very pleasant task for you to do what I ask,"
Marie went on apologetically; "but I thought you would like to have
those papers----"

"I would, indeed," said Helen earnestly, "and it is very thoughtful in
you to arrange for me to get them.  I will do anything else you wish
that will be of any comfort to you."

"The daughter of the woman with whom I have lived has been very good to
me, and you can give her everything in the room and trunk belonging to
me," said Marie, after thinking a moment.  "My jewelry is all gone;
this one ring"--holding up her left hand, on which there was a plain
band of gold--"is, like my trunk, all I have left, and it can stay just
where it is.  But I have one nice stone in my purse"--glancing at the
bag in Helen's lap.

Helen drew forth the purse and searched until she found a small wad of
tissue paper tucked into an inside pocket.  Removing the wrapping, a
diamond worth, perhaps, two hundred dollars fell into her hand; and
there were also a few dollars in money in the purse.

"I have kept that for--for such a time as--this," Marie faltered,
"though there have been times when I've thought I would have to let it
go.  I'd like you to hand it, with what money there is, in at the
office downstairs, to--to----"

"I will; but pray do not try to talk any more now," interposed Helen,
for she saw that, in spite of the brave front the woman was trying to
keep up, she was stricken with terror whenever she thought of the
fast-approaching end.

The nurse now entered the room with a cup of nourishment in her hand.

Helen arose to make room for her, saying inquiringly:

"I think perhaps I ought to go now?"

"No!  Oh, please do not!" weakly pleaded Marie.

"If you _can_ stay, it will be a comfort to her, and"--with a
significant look which her patient could not see--"it will do her no
harm."

"Very well, then, I will remain for a while longer," Helen returned, as
she moved to a window and stood looking out upon the grounds below
while the nurse fed her patient.

What a strange experience! she said to herself.  What mysterious
influence could have guided her steps thither that morning, in direct
answer, as it seemed, to Marie's desire to see her?  She could
understand how Marie, awed and softened by the knowledge that she was
soon to go out into the great beyond, might wish to make some
restitution for the wrong in which she had been a partner, by trying to
protect her own and Dorothy's future from the old scandal; but she
could not account for the revulsion of feeling that had obliterated all
ill will and resentment from her own consciousness, making her
oblivious to everything but the fact that her rival was a suffering,
dying woman, alone in a great extremity, and in sore need of being
comforted and sustained as the shadows closed around her.

A great peace fell upon her, and she was glad that she had come.
Perhaps, she thought, she was beginning to learn something of the love
of which Mrs. Everleigh had told her the previous Sunday--the desire to
do good for the sake of doing good.

When she looked around she found the nurse had gone, and Marie was in a
light sleep.

She went noiselessly back to her chair by the bed, to wait for her to
waken, and as she studied the colorless face upon the pillow she was
impressed more than ever by the remarkable beauty with which she had
been endowed.  The features were very symmetrical, and just now seemed
more refined than she had ever seen them.

She had smooth, shapely brows, and an abundance of dark-brown hair,
while the tips of her white, still perfect, teeth were just visible
between her slightly parted lips.  She did not seem at all like the
coarse, defiant, passée person, in tawdry attire, whom she had met only
a few days before.

Suddenly Marie opened her eyes; there was a wild, terrified look in
them; but they at once softened into an expression of content as they
rested upon Helen.

"Oh, you _are_ here!" she breathed.  "How good of you!  I dreamed it
was growing dark, and I could not find you."

"I will stay as long as you wish me to," Helen assured her.

"I am--_afraid_!" said Marie, after a moment of silence, a gray pallor
settling over her face.  "I haven't been a very good woman.  What is
there beyond?  Oblivion, or doom?"

"Neither," said Helen, with gentle compassion; "but, instead, an
awakening to larger, better experiences and fresh opportunities."

"How do you know?"  And her listener's face and voice were full of
eagerness.

"I cannot say that I really '_know_' anything about what is beyond us
when we go away from here," Helen gravely returned; "but I have grown
to think that we are like children going to school.  We have our
various classes, or grades, and merge from one into another, according
as we have done our work ill or well----"

"I think that is beautiful!" broke in Marie, a thrill of something like
hope in her tone.  "Then, if one has wasted one's time, and learned
nothing good here, one can begin all over again--one will have another
chance?"

"I believe so," Helen replied.

"I believe it, too!" said Marie, after another interval of silence.
"It seems reasonable, and surely all nature teaches it.  A man may sow
poor seed to-day and reap a poor harvest; but he will see his mistake,
and have a chance to do better another season.  I am so glad you told
me--I don't seem to mind what is coming quite so much."

She lay quietly thinking for a while, and Helen hoped she would fall
asleep, but presently she resumed:

"I have done you a great wrong, Helen Hungerford, for I knew about you
in Paris; but I liked a good time, and I led John on--away from you.  I
am sorry now.  And your daughter!  I have never forgotten her face,
that day in San Francisco, when my auto was detained beside the car she
was in, and she saw her father with me--it was so ashamed, so
distressed----"

"I am sure you ought to rest--do not talk any more now," Helen again
pleaded, for Marie was showing signs of weakness, while she herself
shrank from these references to her unhappy past.

She leaned forward to straighten her covering, which had become
slightly disarranged, when Marie lifted a corner of the lace scarf she
was wearing, and humbly laid it against her lips.  Then she closed her
eyes wearily, and was presently asleep.

The nurse, coming in soon after, felt her pulse, and, turning to Helen,
observed:

"If you would like to go, I think you may; I do not believe she will
waken again."

"Perhaps I will, a little later," said Helen, who was not quite ready
to forsake her post so soon after telling Marie that she would remain
as long as she wished her to.

An hour slipped by almost in silence, when, without a movement to show
that she had wakened, Marie's white lids were lifted, and the ghost of
a smile curled her lips, as her dark eyes met Helen's.

"I--shall have another--chance!  I shall--begin all over--again," she
breathed weakly, but with no sign of fear.

Once more she seemed to sleep, and at the end of another hour Helen
went home.



CHAPTER XV.

A STARTLING APPARITION.

The next four months slipped swiftly away.  They were filled full with
joyous anticipations and pleasant occupations, while Helen, now that
she no longer feared Dorothy's happiness or prospects would be
disturbed, regained her accustomed serenity, and once more became
absorbed in the numberless details involved in making ready for a
wedding.

A great burden had been lifted from her heart, for all those menacing
newspapers and photographs, with every other telltale evidence of the
unhappy past, that had been treasured by the once popular opera
favorite, had been destroyed, and nothing remained that could even
remotely bear witness to it, save a small tablet, bearing the name of
"Marie Duncan," that had been placed in a quiet corner of a distant
churchyard outside the city.

The months of August and September Dorothy and her mother spent in the
Berkshires, on a pleasant farm adjoining "Avondale," the fine estate
and summer home of the Alexanders.

This arrangement was made for the benefit of the lovers, in order to
enable them to see each other every day, and enjoy the pleasures of
country life together, during the brief interval previous to their
marriage.

The wedding had been set for the first of October, and, at the request
of the bride-elect, who shrank from the confusion and excitement of a
society function, was quietly solemnized at noon on that date, in the
pretty near-by village church.  Here Helen gave her daughter away to
the man whom she believed to be in every way worthy of her one
treasure, and the simple ceremony was followed by a reception and an
elaborate breakfast at Avondale for the limited number of friends who
were bidden to grace the occasion.

Thus, with apparently nothing to cast a shadow over her future, Dorothy
Ford became the wife of Clifford Alexander, and the happy couple went
away for a month or two of travel, while a beautiful home, adjoining
the Alexander estate on the Hudson, was being prepared for their
occupancy upon their return.

Mr. and Mrs. Alexander, Senior, returned immediately to their home on
the Hudson, and Madam Ford to New York to resume her work and prepare
for her winter engagements.

In planning his new residence, Clifford Alexander had arranged for a
delightful suite of rooms which he placed at Helen's disposal, with a
pressing invitation that she would make her future home with Dorothy
and himself.

Helen was deeply touched by this evidence of his sincere regard for
her, but she gently declined, telling him she thought a newly wedded
couple should begin their life and home making alone with each other;
while, too, she would not be willing to give up her work for a long
while yet; hence she must have her studio in the city, and it would be
better for her to live there, as usual.

"But you have labored continuously for many years--you have spent your
life for this dear girl"--bending a fond look upon his fiancée--"whom I
have won away from your nest.  Now come and rest, and _play_ with
us--at least, for a while," the young man had urged.

And Dorothy had also pleaded:

"Do come, mamma, dear; it will be lovely to have you with us."

"I do not deny that my 'nest' will be lonely without her," Helen had
replied, smiling bravely through a mist of sudden tears; "but I could
not be idle, and the nestling must learn to use her own wings.  All the
same," she went on, more brightly, "I am not going to allow you to
forget in the days to come that you have added a mother-in-law to your
list of responsibilities, and I warn you that I intend to drop in upon
you often enough to keep you both upon your best behavior."

"Well, madam mother-to-be," said Mr. Alexander, smiling at her threat,
"the rooms are there--they were planned for _you_, and I hope some time
to see you very comfy in them.  I would not impose any sense of
obligation upon you; I wish you to be happy in your own way, but please
bear in mind always that it would give us great pleasure to have you
with us."

Helen lifted a searching look to his face.

"Pardon me; but are you sensitive regarding my occupation--my career?"
she inquired.

He laughed out softly as he read her meaning.

"Pray do not fret yourself about that," he said.  "I do not quite dare
to tell you how exceedingly _proud_ I am of you and your career.  I
sometimes wish, though, that you did not keep so busy with _pupils_--I
assure you there is not the slightest need----"

"Oh, but I love the dear things!" Helen eagerly interposed.  "They
bring so much brightness and joy into my life."

"Of which, believe me, I would not rob you in the least degree," the
gentleman earnestly replied, and, seeing she was very much in earnest,
he pressed the matter no further.

So Helen resumed her work, as usual, upon her return to New York.  She
was in perfect health, and still a very beautiful woman.  She was also
happy in Dorothy's happiness; life seemed very bright, and she looked
forward to the coming season with much of anticipation, even enthusiasm.

One morning, about a week after the wedding, she went up the river to
the new home, which was fast nearing completion.  It was now in process
of being decorated and furnished, under the supervision of Mr. and Mrs.
Alexander, Senior, who insisted upon having her join them whenever she
could spare the time, to give them the benefit of her taste and
knowledge regarding Dorothy's preferences.

They spent a delightful day together, overseeing the placing of china
and bric-a-brac, the hanging of draperies, pictures, et cetera, and
attending to numerous other details.  At noon they enjoyed a dainty
lunch, prepared and sent over by the cook at the other house, in
Dorothy's bright, luxuriously appointed kitchen; then they resumed
their pleasant occupations, working busily until it was time for Helen
to go, when she was whirled down to the steamer landing in Mr.
Alexander's fine limousine, just in time to catch the early evening
boat back to the city.

It was a balmy, almost summerlike, evening in spite of the fact that it
was on the verge of November, and Helen, securing a camp chair, made
her way to a sightly spot on the stern deck, and seated herself to
enjoy the delightful atmosphere and lovely scenery as the steamer
glided smoothly down the river.  She was in a most harmonious frame of
mind, for her heart was at rest and the future full of hope.  There was
a joyous light in her eyes, and a happy smile on her lips, as, in
imagination, she looked forward to Dorothy's home-coming, and the
delight she would experience in taking possession of that luxurious
nest awaiting her among yonder beautiful hills, away from the dust and
turmoil of the busy metropolis.  As the boat drew near to its pier she
rose and leisurely made her way inside to descend to the lower deck.
She had just reached the head of the stairs, where she was forced to
pause a moment because of the crowd ahead of her, when some one behind
her gave utterance to a startled, but quickly repressed, exclamation.

Involuntarily she glanced back over her shoulder at the sound, when her
features suddenly froze into a look of horror.

"Helen!" faltered a voice she could not fail to recognize,
notwithstanding it was tremulous from emotion and hoarse from a heavy
cold.

But the man!  Could that haggard, white-faced creature--that emaciated,
poorly clad figure, with his shabby hat, neglected beard and hair, ever
have been the cultured, debonair, elegant John Hungerford, who had
wooed and won her girlish heart and hand more than twenty-five years
ago?

Instinctively she shrank away from him, and he, observing this
involuntary act of repugnance, flushed scarlet from mingled pain and
shame.  Then the crowd surged in between them, and Helen, with a wildly
throbbing heart and a sense of despair and hot rebellion almost
suffocating her, forced her way on shore with all possible speed,
sprang upon the first car she saw, and hoped she had effectually evaded
that startling apparition.

But her peace of mind had been destroyed.  All the brightness and joy
of that happy day were suddenly blotted out, swallowed in by the terror
inspired by this unlooked-for calamity which now threatened anew both
herself and Dorothy.

It was a terrible, a crushing, blow.  She could not sleep that night;
she could not apply herself to work of any kind the following day; she
dared not go out of the house, lest she meet that ghost of the past
again, and every time her bell rang a shock of fear that he might be
without, seeking entrance, went quivering through all her nerves.

"Would he hunt her down?" she was continually asking herself.  "Would
he dare intrude himself upon her life again, after all these years?"
She turned faint and heartsick at the thought.  But the day waned, the
dinner hour passed, and, with the curtains drawn and lights all about
her, she began to experience more of a feeling of security; to take
courage, and try to assure herself that she had successfully eluded
him, and he would not be able to ferret her out in that great city,
even if he tried.

She had just settled herself for the evening with a new book--one of
several that Dorothy had given her before going away, telling her, with
a suspicion of tears in her voice: "For your evenings, mamma, dear, so
you will not miss me quite so much"--and was beginning to get really
interested in the plot of the story when her bell rang a sharp, shrill
peal.

Her maid, who had been with her for several years, had sailed for
Scotland for a long-promised visit home, when Helen went into the
country for the summer, and, not yet having secured another to take her
place, she was obliged to answer the summons herself, which she did
with a quaking heart.

"A message for Mrs. Ford," came up through the tube.

Helen's fear was instantly turned into joy.

"A message from Dorothy," she thought, for she had received either a
letter or a telegram from the happy bride almost every day since her
departure.

"Come up," she eagerly responded, as she pressed the button governing
the lower entrance.  Presently, hearing steps on the stairs, she swung
open the door of her suite, when, with a gasp of dismay, she found
herself face to face with John Hungerford.

She would have shut the door upon him, but he was too quick for her.
He forced his way inside, and then closed it himself.

"I must see you, Helen," he panted, as he sank, pale and breathless,
upon a chair in the reception hall.

"Oh, why have you come?" she demanded, with white lips.

"Because I could not bear it any longer; I was starving to see you and
Dorothy.  Where is she?"

"She is married."

"Married!  Dorothy married!  When?"

"Two weeks ago yesterday."

"To whom?"

Helen straightened herself resolutely.

"I shall not tell you that," she replied, with sharp decision.  "She is
happy, and I will not have her life clouded by anything to recall the
troubles of the past."

The man shivered at her words.  He was but a miserable shadow of the
John Hungerford of ten years ago.  His form was shrunken, his clothing
faded and worn, his face was pale, his cheeks hollow, and his eyes
sunken and lusterless.

"But, Helen, I want to see Dorothy--she is my child.  I must see her!"
he faltered, a note of agonized appeal in his tones that ended abruptly
in a hoarse, hollow cough.

"You must _not_ see her!" Helen emphatically returned, and thinking
only of shielding Dorothy from the pain and shame of such a meeting.

Her words and her apparent indifference to the uncontrollable yearning
within him seemed to anger him.

"She is as much my child as she is yours," he shot back, with a flash
of his old-time doggedness.

Helen flushed an indignant scarlet.

"As much your child as she is mine!" she scathingly exclaimed.  "You
claim that!  You, who deserted us both; who robbed her of her little
fortune, and left me in poverty to rear and educate her as best I
could, while you wasted your stolen thousands upon that woman and your
degrading and sinful pleasures!  Your child!  _What_ have you ever done
for her that entitles you to make the shameless boast?"

The man cringed abjectly beneath her words, but made no attempt to
reply, and Helen resumed, her indignation still at the boiling point:

"I have spent my life for her; I have spared nothing to give her every
advantage, to make her a noble, cultured woman, and to shield her from
every sorrow.  During the last ten years of her life she has known
nothing but happiness; she has married a good man, and a gentleman in
every sense of the word.  He is prosperous, and belongs to a
much-respected and well-known family here in New York.  So Dorothy's
future is very promising, and I will never allow you to cast a shadow
upon it, or mar her joy in any way."

Her listener shifted uncomfortably in his chair.

"You seemed rather happy yourself, when I saw you yesterday," he
observed, with a covert sneer, after an interval of awkward silence;
"and"--glancing curiously about him--"you appear to be remarkably
prosperous, also."

"I am prosperous; I am well established in my profession here."

"As 'Madam Ford,' I perceived, as I rang your bell.  So you dropped the
old name?" said John Hungerford, in a tone of exceeding bitterness.

"Yes, the first half of it, as I also dropped that half of my life for
all time; but for Dorothy, I would have retained no part of it," said
Helen tersely.

Her companion's lips twitched, while his bony hands gripped the arms of
his chair convulsively.

"You are handsomer than ever, Helen; you don't begin to show your
years," he presently observed, as he swept her face and figure with
yearning but gloomy eyes.

She did not deign to reply, although she moved restlessly where she
stood, as if his words annoyed her beyond endurance.

"I suppose you haven't much love left for me?" he falteringly resumed,
after a minute, the silence between them becoming embarrassing again.

"Love--for _you_!" she retorted, with an emphasis that caused him to
shrink as from a blow.

"Well, I'm not claiming that I deserve anything of the kind from you,"
he remarked, in a weak voice, at the same time drawing in a quick, deep
breath.  "However, there is some solace in remembering that you were
once fond of me.  Maybe, not having heard from me for so long, you have
believed me dead?"

"I have, of course, had no means of knowing whether you were living or
dead," Helen coldly replied.

"Perhaps it might have been a relief to you if I had died," said John,
as, with hopeless eyes, he searched her frozen face for some sign of
the old-time gentleness.  She made no answer.  She was not quite
heartless enough, even in her despair over his reappearance, to confirm
this gruesome suggestion; yet she was keenly conscious that his
presence was almost intolerable to her.

A low, bitter laugh escaped him at her silence, and again a cruel cough
racked him.

"Have you a picture of Dorothy?" he inquired, when he recovered his
breath.

"Yes, several."

"I want to see them," the man exclaimed, a mighty yearning in his
voice; and, rising from his chair, he began to look eagerly around the
room for some likeness of his child.

Helen neither moved nor spoke to hinder him.  She felt dazed, helpless
in this terrible dilemma.  She was frightened, rebellious, desperate to
be thus confronted with this appalling skeleton of her past, this
menace to Dorothy's bright hopes.  John Hungerford passed from the
reception hall into the parlor, a lovely room, most artistic and dainty
in its coloring, decorations, and furnishings; and, shoving his hands
into his coat pockets, as if to brace himself against a consciousness
of intrusion and rudeness, he began his search for Dorothy's pictures.

Helen, who had followed him, sank, quaking, upon a chair, too weak and
unnerved to remain standing a moment longer, and wondering miserably
what would be the outcome of this harrowing interview.

Suddenly the man paused, an exclamation of delight escaping him.  He
had espied a full-length photograph of Dorothy, taken in her wedding
robes.

"This is----" he began tremulously, and turning a face quivering with
uncontrollable emotion to Helen.

"Yes," she briefly replied.

"How beautiful she is!  She looks as you looked the evening we were----"

Helen shivered, and her white teeth came together with a snap that
arrested the word on his lips.

"Whom did she marry?" he demanded, almost fiercely, after studying the
picture for a minute or two.

"I shall not tell you," Helen doggedly reiterated, and unutterably
thankful that Mr. Alexander's likeness was not beside the other to tell
its own story.  She had found it was, for some reason, beginning to
curl, and she had taken it down and laid a heavy book on it only that
morning.  "But I will tell you this," she presently resumed: "Her
husband is a man to whom any father or mother might be proud to give a
daughter, and Dorothy will never know a care or sorrow which an
absorbing affection and most unselfish devotion can avert."



CHAPTER XVI.

SACKCLOTH AND ASHES.

John Hungerford flushed suddenly crimson; then paled to a sickly hue at
Helen's words.

Evidently her statement that Dorothy's life and happiness would be most
tenderly shielded by a considerate and devoted husband aroused memories
of the past that were far from pleasant.  He stood silently studying
the photograph for several minutes, his face showing evidence of deep
inward emotion.  Finally replacing it upon the mantel, he moved on,
curiously observant of the handsome furniture, choice bric-a-brac,
draperies, and pictures that were tastefully arranged about the room.

As he drew near a door leading into an adjoining apartment that was
used as a library, he paused, and stood irresolute.

"Helen--may I look through the suite?" he eagerly questioned, but with
evident embarrassment.  "May I see Dorothy's room?  I--I would like to
know how you two have been living; it will be something to--to
remember."

Helen's head sank wearily back against her chair.  She was white to her
lips from her efforts at self-control.

"I don't care--go where you like," she breathed, in a scarcely audible
voice.

The man passed noiselessly into the library, where he was no less
observant of what it contained than he had been in the parlor.
Presently he moved out into the hall, and on to a chamber which he
realized at a glance must be Helen's.  Leading from it was another and
smaller one, and this, he was sure, as he entered it, had been
Dorothy's.

It was the daintiest room imaginable.  Excepting the bed, which was of
brass, the furniture was all of white enamel and willow ware in
graceful designs.  Spotless draperies of muslin over white shades hung
at the windows, and were slightly looped with broad blue ribbons.  A
beautiful blue-and-white rug lay upon the light hardwood floor, and the
fireplace was also tiled in the same colors.

Here John Hungerford lingered for a long time, moving silently, and
treading softly, as if he felt himself intruding upon some sacred
place.  He paused before each piece of furniture, noting every detail
in outline and upholstery.  Not an article of the frosted-silver toilet
set upon the pretty dresser escaped his notice; he even noted her class
pin and two small baby pins which he remembered seeing Dorothy wear as
a child, that were stuck into the blue-and-white satin pin-cushion
under the looking-glass.  He examined all her books, the pictures on
the walls, and studied the photographs of her friends and schoolmates,
of which she had many.

Now and then he would softly touch and caress a vase or an ornament
with reverent, trembling fingers.  A little workbasket, made of sweet
grass, and sending its delicate perfume to his nostrils, stood upon a
table, and some great tears splashed into it as he bent over it and
noted a small silver thimble lying among its other implements.  When he
came to the pretty brass bed, with its dainty lace spread and shams, he
seemed almost overcome.  His head sank heavily upon his breast, and,
reaching out a trembling hand, he gently patted one of the pillows, a
great sob heaving his chest and shaking his entire frame as he did so.
Then, with a gesture of despair that seemed also to imply the
renunciation of some previous purpose, he turned abruptly away, and
went back to a group of photographs fastened to the wall, where he had
noticed a likeness of Dorothy.  It was a class picture that had been
taken of her in her graduating dress, just before leaving Vassar.

The man studied it intently, his hungry, yearning eyes devouring its
every detail.  At last, with a stealthy glance over his shoulder, he
reached up, took it down, pressed it passionately to his lips; then,
hastily concealing it inside his coat, he left the room.

He merely glanced into the pretty dining room beyond, without
attempting to go farther, after which he slowly retraced his steps
through the hall to the reception room, and paused in the doorway
leading to the parlor, where Helen was still sitting.

"I am going now, Helen," he observed, in a spiritless tone.  "Thank you
for letting me look around."

She rose and went toward him.  He was standing where the light fell
full upon his face, and she was shocked to see how ghastly and ill he
looked.

"Where are you going?" she briefly inquired.

"I don't quite--know; I----"

"How did you find me?"

"You didn't think I would lose sight of you, did you, after once
getting a glimpse of you?  I had to know something about Dorothy; I
couldn't stand it--the silence and the uncertainty--any longer."

"You will not come here again?"

There was a note of blended authority and appeal in Helen's tone.

"No, I will never trouble you again.  I don't think I'll trouble
anybody long," he said grimly.  "But, Helen"--a scarlet streak shot
vividly across his forehead--"could you let me have a little money?  I
have only a few cents, and I haven't had anything to eat since----"

He broke off suddenly, and began to cough distressingly, his head bowed
low in humiliation because of his destitution.

Helen's heart bounded into her throat.

John Hungerford hungry--begging for something to eat!  The epicure, the
prodigal, who, in days gone by, had never denied himself any luxury
that he had craved, now absolutely penniless and shabby, almost
starving!  And that cough--how it racked him!

A thrill of horror ran through her; she clenched her hands in an effort
to repress the cry of dismay that arose to her lips.

"Where are you staying?" she forced herself to inquire, with an
appearance of composure.

"I don't know where I shall stay to-night," he faltered.  "To-morrow I
am going back to San Francisco; Uncle Nathan has sent me a ticket."

So he had not even a place to lay his head that night, and the few
cents which he claimed to have surely would not provide him the
humblest lodging, let alone something to appease his hunger.

"Wait," said Helen, and, turning abruptly from him, a choking sensation
in her throat, she swept into the library.  Going to her desk, she
wrote a few words upon a blank card, after which she opened a drawer,
drew forth a crisp new bank note, and hastily folded it, with the
numerals out of sight.  She then returned to the hall, and slipped the
card, with the money underneath, into the man's hand.

"Here is the address of a good woman who sometimes works for me," she
said.  "She lives not far from here; take the first turn to the right,
going downtown; the third street from there is Broad Street.  Turn to
your left, find number ninety-five, and Mrs. Harding lives on the lower
floor.  She will give you a comfortable room for the night and a good
breakfast in the morning."

As she concluded, Helen turned the catch and opened the door leading to
the outer hall.  She was trembling violently, and her face was as
colorless as marble.

John Hungerford stood for a moment, regarding her with a hopeless,
heartbroken look; then, with bowed head and faltering steps, he passed
out upon the landing.

"Thank you; good-by--Helen," he breathed hoarsely.

"Good-by, John," she mechanically returned, and the door was shut
between them.

She stood listening until she heard him leave the house.  Then, after
carefully fastening the burglar chain, she staggered to her chamber,
where, falling face downward upon her bed, she collapsed in violent
hysterics.

"Oh, if it were only a horrible dream from which I could wake!" she
moaned.  "It cannot--cannot be possible that I have seen him again, and
in such a miserable plight!"

How would it all end? she wondered, as she lay there in abject misery.
Would the shameful past, which she had believed forever annihilated, by
the death of Marie Duncan and the destruction of those menacing
newspapers and photographs, be resurrected, and the fair fabric of
social prestige, almost of celebrity, which she had reared for herself
and her child during the last ten years be ruthlessly overthrown, and
crush them both to earth beneath the ruins?

She had firmly believed for many years that she would never again meet
the faithless man who had once been her husband.  She had fondly
imagined that she was absolutely free to live out the beautiful future
she had grown to anticipate without once having her peace disturbed by
any fear that he would ever cross her path again.  But, alas, for the
frailty of human hopes!  To be sure, he had told her that he would
never trouble her again, and there had been a hopeless finality in both
his manner and words when he left her to-night, that seemed convincing.
But would he keep his word?  Would he--oh, would he?

And to what depths he had fallen!

Could that homeless, penniless, pitiful tramp be the once
light-hearted, care-free John Hungerford?  The man who had been her
husband, and in whose companionship she had once believed herself to be
supremely happy!  And now--she cringed with shame and repugnance at the
mere remembrance of his presence.

How could he ever have sunk so low?  Ah, she knew but too well!  He had
always depended upon some one else to make life easy for him, to help
him over hard places, to care for his comfort, and cater to his
entertainment; while he gathered only the honey along the way, shirking
every manly duty, ignoring every sacred responsibility; and when his
props, one by one, had fallen away from him, he had drifted aimlessly
and helplessly with the current, sinking lower and lower, until, ill,
hungry, and desperate, he had--as a last shameless resort--turned to
her, his divorced wife, for help.

Helen spent a wretched night.  To sleep was impossible, with that gaunt
figure, haggard face, and racking cough continually haunting her.
Again and again she wished that she had given John twenty, instead of
ten, dollars.  How was he ever to get to California with any degree of
comfort upon so small a sum?  He certainly could not take a sleeper; he
would have to ride all the way in a day coach, or go hungry--unless,
perchance, his uncle had also sent him a ticket for a berth, which was
doubtful.  And what would become of him upon reaching San Francisco?
He did not look fit for work, and she knew well, from past experience,
that Nathan Young was not likely to tolerate laggards in his employ.

What possible hope could the future hold for him--sick, spiritless, and
with not a friend in the world to really care what became of him?  She
shivered as a vision of the home for the poor arose before her.  Would
he be driven to that?  Or, something even worse, perhaps--the coward's
refuge--suicide?

These were some of the distracting thoughts that thronged her brain and
drove sleep from her pillow during that long night.

At the same time she was greatly relieved to know that the continent
would separate them.  He had promised that he would never trouble her
again, and if he kept his word he would be gone to-morrow, and Dorothy
need never know aught of this night's dreadful experience.

Somewhat calmed by these reflections, she finally, just as day began to
dawn, dropped into a profound slumber, from which she did not awaken
until nearly ten in the morning.

Fortunately it was Saturday; she had no pupils for that day, and her
time was her own.  But she was far from happy as she tried to busy
herself with some light duties about the house.  Her thoughts
constantly reverted to her interview with John, and a sense of
self-condemnation began to fasten itself upon her, in view of the
attitude she had maintained toward him.

She knew that she had not been kind to him; she had flung scorn and
taunts at him when he was already crushed beneath a heartrending load
of misery and shame.  She had manifested antagonism, bitterness, and
resentment toward him.  These, summed up, meant hate, and hate
meant--what?  "He that hateth his brother is a murderer," was the text
that came to her again with a revolting shock, in reply.  John had
implied that perhaps she had wished him dead.  She knew, now, that she
had, and involuntarily she passed her hand across her forehead as she
thought of that old-time brand upon the brow of Cain.  Had she fallen
so low as that?  Had she been simply a whited sepulcher all these
years, showing an attractive, gracious, irreproachable surface to the
world, while in her heart she had been nursing this deadly viper, hate?
John had deeply wronged her, but he had wronged himself far more, and
now his sins had brought their own punishment--had stripped and left
him wounded by the wayside; while she, instead of binding up his
wounds, pouring in the oil of kindness and the wine of cheer and good
will, had smitten him afresh.  Surely she would not have treated the
veriest stranger like that!  True, she had given him money, but how had
she given it--what had been the motive?  She knew it had been merely to
get rid of him and to save herself the pain of thinking of him as a
starving man.

All this was something similar to, though more effective than, the
sifting she had experienced that never-to-be-forgotten Sunday in
church, so long ago.  She realized now that she had not rooted out, but
simply buried a little deeper, for the time being, the corroding
bitterness within her heart.  Her interest in Marie Duncan, the
kindness and sympathy she had shown her during her last hours, the
change in her own and in the woman's mental attitude toward each other,
together with Marie's surrender of the menacing newspapers and
photographs, which had eliminated all fear of exposure, had brought to
her a deceptive peace, which she had believed to be a purified
conscience.  But the test that had come to her now proved to her that
the serpent had only been sleeping, that she still had her battle to
fight, her victory to win, or the evil would recoil upon herself, warp
her nature, and poison her whole future.

It was a season of sackcloth and ashes for Helen, but the searching
introspection to which she subjected herself had uncovered the
appalling effects which long years of secret brooding, self-pity, and
self-righteousness had produced upon her, and awakened a wholesome
sense of self-condemnation and repentance, thus opening the way for a
more healthful mental condition and growth.

She realized all this, in a way; but she did not know how to begin to
tread down the conflicting forces that were rampant within her; how to
silence the mental arguments that were continually affirming that she
had been deeply wronged--that she might, perhaps, forgive, but could
never forget; that John had made his own bed and must lie in it--he had
no legal or moral right to expect either aid or sympathy from her--and
so on to the end of the chapter--or, rather, the chapter seemed to have
no end.

"What shall I do?" she finally exclaimed, with a feeling of exhaustion.
"The evil talks to me incessantly, and I do not know how to get the
better of it."

Suddenly she started from her chair, and, going to her desk, opened a
drawer and found a card.

"Mrs. Raymond B. Everleigh, number ---- Riverside Drive, New York," she
read aloud, and then stood gravely thinking for a minute or two.

Then she opened her telephone book, found the name and address she
wanted, and called the number opposite over the phone.

"Is this Mrs. Raymond B. Everleigh?" she inquired, when the connection
had been made.

The answer came back: "Yes, I am Mrs. Everleigh."

"Does Mrs. Everleigh remember the lady who sat with her in church the
third Sunday in May, and to whom she gave her card, asking her to come
again?" Helen questioned.

"Yes, indeed; and I have hoped to see her again--wondered why I have
not."

"It is she who is talking with you now.  May I come to see you to-day?
I know it is asking a great favor from a stranger, but----"

Helen's appealing voice ceased while she listened to something that
came from the other end.

"At two o'clock?  Oh, thank you!  I will be there," she gratefully
returned, as she hung up her receiver and hastened to her room to dress
for the street.



CHAPTER XVII.

AS WHEAT IS SIFTED.

At two o'clock Helen rang the bell of Mrs. Everleigh's palatial home on
Riverside Drive.  A man in livery admitted her, swept herself and her
card with a comprehensive glance as she laid the bit of pasteboard upon
his tray, obsequiously bowed her into an elegantly appointed reception
room, and disappeared.

Five minutes later Mrs. Everleigh came to her.  Helen had thought her a
rarely beautiful woman when she had seen her in church, more than four
months previous; but she seemed a hundredfold more lovely now, dressed
all in simple white, her abundant snowy hair coiled becomingly about
her head, her only ornament an exquisite chain of turquoise set in
silver and almost the color of her peaceful eyes, and her lips wreathed
in sunny, welcoming smiles.

"Mrs. Ford, I am more than glad to see you," she said, as she cordially
clasped Helen's hand.  "And now, if you will allow me to waive the
formalities of a first call, I am going to ask you to come up to my
private sitting room, where we can be wholly by ourselves."

Helen thanked her, and followed her up the grand stairway, noting the
costly furnishings of the great hall, the rare paintings, statuary,
bric-a-brac, et cetera, on every hand; and almost gave vent to an
exclamation of childish delight as she was ushered into an exquisite
boudoir on the second floor, and which was furnished throughout in blue
and white; the great chandelier in the center of the ceiling, and other
appliances for lighting, together with many beautiful vases, being all
of crystal or expensive cut glass.

"What an ideal setting for an ideal woman!" she said to herself, as she
entered the room.

"Come and sit here, Mrs. Ford," said Mrs. Everleigh, as she preceded
her to a great bow window, where there were two inviting rockers, with
hassocks to match, a pretty onyx table on which rested a small easel
supporting the photograph of a beautiful young girl, and, standing
beside it, a costly cut-glass vase filled with fresh forget-me-nots.

"What a lovely nook!" was Helen's involuntary tribute, as she sank into
the luxurious chair offered her.  "And, oh, that view!" she added, with
a quick indrawn breath, as her glance fell upon the scene without,
where, between splendid great trees, all glorious in their brilliant
fall attire of red, yellow, and green, glimpses of the river, flashing
in the sunlight, with the darker hills beyond, made a picture that one
could never forget.

"Yes, it is a scene of which I never tire," returned her hostess, as
she took the other rocker, and thoughtfully pushed a hassock nearer her
guest.

"I hope, Mrs. Everleigh, I have not seemed intrusive in asking to come
to you?" Helen observed, after a moment or two, during which she sat
silently drinking in the beauty before her.  "But your kindness to me
that day in church emboldened me to beg the favor."

"My dear, I am happy to have you come--I am glad to be helpful to any
one, as opportunity offers," the elder lady graciously replied.

Helen lifted a glance of surprise to her.  She had not hinted that she
was unhappy, or needed help of any kind.

Mrs. Everleigh met her look with her winning smile.

"Your voice told me over the phone, dear, that you were in trouble,"
she said.  "Now, open your heart to me.  What can I do for you?"

Her tone was so kind, her smile and manner so loving, Helen's forced
composure melted like wax in the sun, and a sudden flood of tears
rendered her utterly helpless to respond for the moment.

The strain and excitement of the last forty-eight hours had been very
great, and the loss of two nights' sleep, together with the relentless
mental vivisection to which she had since subjected herself, had robbed
her of both strength and self-control.

"Dear heart," gently entreated her companion, "let the bitterness all
out; then there will be room to pour in the balm and oil."

She leaned back in her chair, and sat silent, with bowed head and
averted eyes, until Helen's weeping ceased, and she began to regain
something of her customary self-possession.

"Dear Mrs. Everleigh," she at length said, as she lifted her
tear-stained face to her, "you have not attempted to question or
comfort me, and yet it seems to me you have been pouring peace into my
heart every moment since I came into this room; my trouble is the old
puzzle regarding love and hate."

"How is it a puzzle?"

"All my life," Helen explained, "I have believed myself to be a good
woman, a devoted wife and mother, faithful to my duties, charitable,
conscientious, God-fearing, self-sacrificing to a fault, and absolutely
loyal to my friends.  I believed all this to be love.  When trouble
came, I bore it patiently, taking up my burdens with courage, and
setting my face steadfastly toward the work of regaining for myself and
my child that of which we had been cruelly robbed--home, position, and
an honorable name.  I thought I had won, that the goal had been
attained, that I had so firmly established myself no taint of the past
could touch me; and I believed I was happy in what I had achieved,
until I suddenly awoke to the fact that all the fair fabric I had
constructed and believed unassailable was only an outward show, built
upon pride and self-righteousness; until I began to realize that I had
all the time been possessed of a subconscious hate, the hate that
wishes people dead and powerless to cross your path again!  Does the
picture appall you?"

Helen paused, almost breathless from inward emotion and rapid speaking.

"My dear, you have uncovered all this in connection with yourself?"
gravely queried Mrs. Everleigh.

"_Something_ has uncovered it," said Helen, with a bitter sigh.

"And what is the result of such searching introspection?"

"I feel like a whited sepulcher.  I am appalled, shocked beyond measure
at myself," said Helen, with a gesture of repugnance.

"Do you think it was your real self who was nursing all the evil you
have portrayed?" gently inquired her companion.

Helen lifted a look of surprise to her.

"My real self?" she repeated, in perplexity.

"The real self is the purity--the innate consciousness that shrinks
from evil, and would be clothed upon with the garment of righteousness,
of right thinking and right living," said Mrs. Everleigh.

"Then the evil-thinking is the unreal self, and every one possesses a
dual nature?  I recognize that--it is the old story of Doctor Jekyll
and Mr. Hyde--but when one wakes up to find that even the good he
_thinks_ he has done is evil, because of the worm at the core, it
becomes a mocking paradox," said Helen bitterly.

"No, dear; not the good he thinks and has done," opposed her companion
gently, "for every good thought that has taken form in your
consciousness, every good deed that has been the outgrowth of that
thought, belongs to your true self, and nothing can rob you of it.
Your efforts to conquer adverse circumstances, your determination to
achieve success in your profession--I have recently heard Madam Ford
sing, and have learned something of her career," the lady smilingly
interposed--"and an honorable name and position for yourself and your
child are all justifiable and praiseworthy.  We have a right to set our
standards high and do our utmost, with right motives, to attain them.
But the undercurrent of bitterness, the sense of resentment, self-pity,
self-righteousness--the thinking that is continually arguing about the
faults and sins of the wrongdoer--everything that tends to
self-justification by the condemnation of another is all wrong, and
must be put out, if we hope ever to attain to our ideals, and know real
peace of mind.  It matters not how fair our outward living may seem, if
the thinking is wrong."

"I began to realize something of this, that Sunday in church," said
Helen.  "It seemed as if a wonderful searchlight had been turned upon
my inner self, revealing lurking demons I never dreamed I was
harboring."

"Every one, sooner or later, must be sifted as wheat is sifted--must be
refined as gold is refined; the dross and the chaff must be cast out,"
said her companion.

"Oh, tell me how!" Helen exclaimed.  "One yearns to be pure in thought
as well as in deed, but the wrong-thinking seems to go on and on of
itself.  How can it be conquered?"

"By putting self out of sight and giving loving service to others."

"To those who have done us desperate wrong?" panted Helen, with an
inward shock.

"Even to those," said Mrs. Everleigh gently.  "They need it most of
all."

"Oh, you cannot mean that we should take them back into our hearts and
lives, and nourish and serve them again as if no wrong had been done,
when every law of God and man had been violated, every tendril of
affection ruthlessly trampled upon!"  Helen's voice was almost
inaudible as she concluded.

Mrs. Everleigh did not immediately reply; she sat gravely thinking for
several minutes.

"Dear Mrs. Ford," she at length began, "we each have different problems
in life to solve, and it is difficult and perhaps unwise for one to say
to another what he or she would do under certain circumstances which
had never come into one's own experience.  Loving service is that which
best promotes the welfare of the one served.  What might be loving
service and helpful for one might be just the reverse for another.  The
wrongdoer must suffer for his wrongdoing, else he would never recognize
or repent his sin; it would be doing irreparable injury to remove his
punishment, restoring joys he had forfeited, privileges he had trampled
upon.  That would be encouraging sin.  We are commanded to 'cast not
our pearls before swine.'  We must not continue to shower blessings and
favors indiscriminately upon those who have shown themselves
unappreciative and unworthy of past benefits.  Having cut themselves
adrift, it is theirs to work out their own salvation, and it is not our
duty to again put ourselves in contact with the error that has
deliberately wronged and wounded us.  And yet, there is loving service
that we can still render even these; we can think and speak kindly of
them, giving honor where honor is due, compassion instead of
condemnation for the errors that hold them in bondage.  Such an
attitude cannot fail to crowd out and conquer the bitterness,
self-pity, self-righteousness, condemnation--everything that robs us of
our peace.  When we attain to this we shall know that we have no
partnership with hate."

"I begin to understand something of what love means," Helen said, in a
tone of awe.  "I feel as if I were just beginning to see how to live.
You surely have helped me to empty myself of much of the evil that
seemed to be surging within me when I came here this afternoon.  You
have indeed 'poured in balm and oil,' and given me much food for
thought."

She arose to leave as she spoke, holding out her hand, a look of
grateful appreciation in her eyes.

"Oh, I am not going to let you go yet!  I have not said half I wish,"
cried her hostess, clasping her extended hand, but forcing her gently
back into her chair; and Helen, eager to learn more from the wisdom
that fell from her lips, sank restfully down among her cushions again,
and they talked on for an hour longer.

"How glad I am you came to me, Mrs. Ford!" Mrs. Everleigh observed,
when she finally said she must go.  "I hope to see you often after
this--I shall make it my way to do so, if you will allow me.  I heard
you sing at the Wardsworths' shortly after we met in church, and I
intended to be introduced to you at that time, but you had left when I
asked to be presented.  You have a great gift, and I am going to beg
you to use it for me some time."

"It will give me great pleasure to do so, Mrs. Everleigh.  I would love
to show some appreciation of the good you have done me to-day," Helen
heartily responded, adding, as her eyes sought those of her companion:
"It is a privilege just to look into your peaceful face--one would
think that no blight or sorrow had ever touched you in----"

Mrs. Everleigh's hand closed over Helen's almost spasmodically, and her
lips whitened suddenly, as her glance sought the beautiful photograph
resting on the onyx table beside the vase of forget-me-nots.

"No blight--no sorrow!" she repeated, as she gently drew her visitor a
step nearer the likeness.  "Oh, no one escapes the tragedies of this
mortal life, my dear--they pass none of us by.  This is a likeness of
my daughter.  Is she not beautiful?  She was swept from my sight almost
before I realized she was in danger.  It seemed as if a whirlwind
caught her away, and--she was all I had--the apple of my eye, the one
darling of my heart.  The blow left me with this crown of snow," she
went on, touching with tremulous fingers the hair upon her forehead.
"It broke my heart, crushed me to earth for the time being, and the
battle I had to fight was much the same that you are fighting now.  It
is only step by step that we conquer in such experiences, but if we are
sincere--'honest in mind and intention'--if we keep our armor on, and
wield a merciless sword upon our secret foes, we must win in the end."

Helen was very near weeping again as she listened to her.  Surely, she
thought, the tragedies of earth pass no one by!  Those in palace and
hovel meet on common ground in these great heart sorrows.  She lifted
the hand she held, and softly laid her lips against it--she was
powerless to speak one word.

But Mrs. Everleigh quickly quelled her momentary emotion, and her
peaceful smile seemed like a benediction as she turned again to Helen.

"But she made my life very bright while she was here.  I have beautiful
things to remember of her; I have very much to be grateful for," she
said bravely.  "We must not forget to number our blessings, dear Mrs.
Ford," she continued gravely, "lest we drift back into the former
bitterness and darkness.  You still have your lovely daughter, if you
have had other trials--I saw her also at the Wardsworths'--be thankful,
and, in the light of that and other blessings, forget the wrong and
blight of the past."

They went downstairs together, Mrs. Everleigh accompanying her visitor
to the door and exacting a promise that she would come again in the
near future, for there was more she wished to say to her when the world
seemed brighter to her.

Helen went home with a sense of peace in her heart such as she had not
known for many weeks.  She felt like a different person from what she
had been during the last forty-eight hours.  She reviewed every step of
her interview with Mrs. Everleigh, analyzing her arguments, making a
personal application of them, and seeking to attain to a higher
understanding of them.

"Loving service for even those who have wronged us most!"  This had
impressed her more deeply than anything else she had said, and as she
conned it o'er and o'er she came to see that to purify her own
consciousness of evil-thinking against John--he who had wronged her
most, who had put the worst possible humiliation and suffering upon
her--would not only release her from the intolerable bondage of mental
discord which she had suffered for years whenever he had come into her
thought, but would also be obeying the divine command: "Do unto others
as ye would they should do unto you."

She might never see or hear from John again--she hoped she would not;
he had said he would trouble her no more; but whether he did or not,
she knew that the bitterness of hate was past, and in its place there
was dawning a peace that comes to all those who realize and practice
the greatest of all virtues--"Charity, the love that thinketh no evil."



CHAPTER XVIII.

LOVING SERVICE.

When Helen entered the vestibule to the Grenoble, where she lived, on
her return from her visit to Mrs. Everleigh, she found Mrs. Harding, to
whom she had sent John the night before, in the vestibule, just about
to ring her bell, and knew instantly, from the woman's face, that
something had gone wrong.

"What is it?" she inquired, with quickened pulses.

"You sent a man--Mr. Williams--to me last night?"

"Yes."  Helen was touched by the fact that John had taken pains to
conceal his identity by giving his middle name to the woman.

He had been taken ill in the night, Mrs. Harding told her, and she had
found him delirious in the morning.  She had sent for a
physician--Doctor Wing--who seemed to think the case critical, and
wanted him taken to some hospital, where he could have better air, and
a constant attendant; but, Mrs. Harding explained, she felt she ought
to come and talk with madam before consenting to the move.

"That was right," observed Helen, who had been thinking rapidly while
the woman was talking.  "I knew Mr.--Williams years ago in San
Francisco, and I am sure his friends would not wish him sent to a
hospital.  He told me he intended to start for California to-day--he
had his ticket--so his friends will be looking for him next week."

"Well, marm, it is my opinion that he'll never see San Francisco
again," said the woman, with a grave shake of her head.

"Oh!" cried Helen sharply; "is he as ill as that?"

Was John going to die, after all?  She was shocked through and through
at the thought.  No, he must not--he should not!  She could never
forgive herself for the dreadful things she had thought and said the
night before, if he did.

Had her repentance come too late?  Was she to have no opportunity to
prove the sincerity of her desire to put into practice the higher
interpretation of love to which she was beginning to awake?

"He's an awful sick man, marm," her companion replied.

"When will Doctor Wing go to see him again?"

"He said he'd drop in about six o'clock."

"Then I will be there at six, also; I wish to talk with Doctor Wing,"
Helen observed, and Mrs. Harding, anxious to get back to her charge,
but evidently relieved to have her responsibility shared, went her way.

When Helen had leased her apartment at the Grenoble, she had hired
another smaller suite of two rooms and bath, adjoining, and running at
right angles with it.  These she had fitted up attractively as a
studio, where she gave her lessons and prepared for her social
engagements, thus leaving her apartment free for Dorrie to entertain
her friends whenever she wished.  At her request, her landlord had cut
a door between the suites, and this arrangement had enabled her to go
back and forth without being obliged to pass through the public hall.

While talking with Mrs. Harding she had conceived a plan to meet Doctor
Wing's desire for better air and good care for his patient.  She would
put a bed and other comforts in the larger room of the studio.  Mrs.
Harding was a good, sensible, reliable woman, capable in every way--and
she would engage her and a trained nurse, if necessary, to take care of
the invalid.  John should have every possible chance for his life that
she could give him, and perhaps this would blot out that dreadful
suspicion he had voiced that she had wished him out of the way.

She unfolded this plan to Doctor Wing when she went to Mrs. Harding's
to meet him, at six o'clock, and, the physician cordially approving it,
in less than three hours the sick man was transferred to Helen's
cheerful, well-ventilated rooms, with good Mrs. Harding as nurse and
attendant.

The woman said she would prefer to take care of him alone; she believed
she could do it, and it would be much easier for her than to be
subjected to the red tape and rigid rules of a trained nurse.  Helen
seconded this proposition, saying she, too, would do whatever she was
able, and would stand ready to provide a trained nurse at any moment,
if the plan did not work to Doctor Wing's entire satisfaction.

The physician gave his consent somewhat reluctantly, but said they
would try it for a day or two.  He was somewhat at a loss to understand
Madam Ford's interest in the man, even though she had frankly explained
that she had known both him and his family when, years ago, she also
had lived in San Francisco.

However, it was no affair of his, only so far as it made better
conditions for his patient; the rooms she offered were certainly more
desirable than a cot in the public ward of a hospital would be, and
madam, if she were doing this simply because of a friendly interest in
him and his far-off family, was a rare woman, indeed.

For two weeks it seemed a doubtful battle for the sick man, who was
delirious and entirely unconscious of his condition and surroundings;
but at the end of that time he began slowly to mend, although he
manifested very little interest in the fact, obediently submitting to
whatever was done or prescribed for him, but with a feeble air of
protest that was discouraging to those interested in him.

"He doesn't want to get well," Mrs. Harding told the physician, when he
came one morning and found his patient very weak and unresponsive to
his cheerful greeting.

"I know it, poor fellow!" he gravely replied.  "But we will do the best
we can for him, although it looks as if that 'best' will not keep him
here very long."

"Where am I?" John asked his nurse a few days later.  "Is this a
hospital?"

"No, it is a small suite," she told him.  "Some one who was not going
to occupy it for a while offered the use of it to Doctor Wing, so he
brought you here and engaged me to take care of you."

Helen had insisted that her agency in the matter was not to be
known--at least, not at present, and when John came to himself she
withdrew from the rooms altogether.

"A man does not like to be under obligations to a woman," she had said,
"and doubtless we shall soon hear from his friends, who will then
assume the care of him."

But John, as he slowly improved, in spite of his indifference to life,
appeared intuitively to realize that he was not wholly indebted to the
good doctor for the comforts he was enjoying.  The rooms were
handsomely furnished; there were dainty and womanly touches all around
him that somehow suggested a familiar atmosphere; the bed linen and
towels were fine and heavy; a rich, warm-hued dressing robe and nice
underwear had been provided for him, and, with the artistic tray on
which his food was served, the pretty hand-painted china, and bright
flowers in unique vases, besides many luxuries to tempt his appetite,
all betrayed a thoughtful interest that strangers, or a strange doctor,
would hardly bestow upon one so destitute as himself.

He talked very little with either his physician or Mrs. Harding; asked
no questions, yet was always appreciative of any service rendered him.
By the end of four weeks he was able to sit up in a great easy-chair by
a sunny window, where he would remain as long as was permitted,
sometimes sitting with closed eyes, apparently thinking; at others
manifesting a trifle more interest than heretofore by studying the
surrounding buildings and his rooms.

He was now allowed to have a daily paper to look over, and Doctor Wing
tried to draw him out on current events and other subjects, now and
then telling a pleasant story or a piquant joke; but while John was
always most courteous in his bearing and conversation he could hardly
be said to be responsive to these efforts in his behalf.

One day there came a tap on the door leading into Helen's apartment.
John caught the sound, although the door of the room he was in was
partially closed.  Mrs. Harding answered the summons, there followed a
few low-spoken words, and presently the woman returned, bearing in her
hands a basket of luscious fruit, a few fragrant flowers carelessly
scattered over it.

"Where did you get it?" the man inquired, his face lighting with
pleasure at the attractive offering.  It was the first really
spontaneous sign of interest he had manifested.

"A lady who lives in the next suite sent it in to you," Mrs. Harding
explained, as she laid a tempting peach, with a bunch of grapes, upon a
plate and passed it to him.

John sat suddenly erect, exhibiting an energy which betrayed to Mrs.
Harding that he possessed more strength than she had supposed.  He
flushed a hot crimson, glanced alertly out of the window near him, then
at the door leading into the hall, through which the doctor usually
entered.  He next set his plate upon a small table beside him, arose,
and went to another window, where he stood for several minutes,
studying the surroundings outside.

Presently he returned to his chair and his fruit, a wan smile curling
his lips, for between certain suspicions that had beset him of late and
a rather accurate bump of location he had gotten his bearings at last,
and thought he knew where he was.

"Mrs. Harding, this house is the Grenoble, is it not?" he quietly
inquired, as he began to pare his peach, but with hands that trembled
in spite of his efforts to conceal his excitement.

"Um--yes," she replied, with some reluctance.

"And Madam Ford lives in the adjoining suite, does she not?  It was she
who sent me the fruit?"

"You know, Mrs. Harding, it was Madam Ford who sent me to you the night
I was taken ill," John resumed, in a matter-of-fact tone, without
appearing to observe her confusion.  "I would be glad to see her again;
will you ask her if she will spare me a few moments?"

On receiving this message, Helen knew that she could no longer keep out
of sight; she had realized from the first that the truth would have to
be revealed sooner or later, and she went to him at once, greeting him
courteously, as if he had been simply an old acquaintance.

"Helen, you are responsible for my being here.  Why did you do this?"
he exclaimed huskily, as the nurse left the room, closing the door
after her.

"If this is what you wished to see me about I am not going to stay, for
you are not to get excited," Helen returned reprovingly; then she added
kindly: "There was simply nothing else to do."

"Yes, there was; you could have let them take me to some hospital,
where they would have put me to die, like any other beggar.  Why didn't
you?" he demanded bitterly.

"Because, for one reason, Doctor Wing thought this the better plan for
you----"

"But the expense of it!" he interposed, flushing hotly.  "To say
nothing about the imposition on you."

"Oh, don't let that trouble you," said Helen calmly.  "Of course, I
wrote to your uncle, telling him of your illness.  I thought he would
be wondering, after sending you the ticket, why you did not put in an
appearance at San Francisco."

"Well, what did he say?"

"He wrote me to see that you were made comfortable, and sent me some
money."

"How much?"

"Fifty dollars," Helen confessed, rather reluctantly.

A cynical smile curled John Hungerford's lips.

"Fifty dollars!  It has cost you many times that to provide for my
needs, and the care I have had, to say nothing about the doctor's
bill," he faltered.  "Well"--with a reckless air--"I shall soon be
where I will trouble no one, and--I am glad of it."

"Why should you be glad of it?" Helen gravely asked.

"Because I do not wish to be a burden to any one.  I've been a failure
from beginning to end, and I am weary of the race.  Even if I were not,
I know my fate is settled, and it would be useless to try to change it."

"How do you know your fate is settled, as you express it?"

He held up a trembling, transparent hand.

"I have no blood; I have no strength, no courage, nothing to look
forward to," he said, in a hopeless tone.

"Don't you think it would be more brave if, instead of yielding to such
gloomy thoughts, you made an effort to get well?" Helen gently
suggested.

"What for?  _What_ have I to live for?" he cried, lifting agonized eyes
to her.

"For the sake of trying to live--_right_ for a while," she gravely but
very kindly replied.

A wave of scarlet shot over his wan face, and his head fell upon his
breast.

"By Heaven, I wish I could!" he exclaimed, looking up, after a moment,
a ring of sincerity in his voice that Helen had never heard before.

"Then, John, why not make an honest effort for it?"  And Helen's tone
was full of strength and encouragement.

"It is too late--I am not going to get well.  I am sure the doctor
thinks I cannot," he wearily returned.

"Simply because you have no wish to, and will not try; your own
attitude is what is sending you to your doom.  Don't let this inertia
conquer you, John; buckle on your courage, take a fresh grip on hope,
and rise above this weakness.  There is hardly any situation in life so
adverse that it cannot be overcome if one will go to work the right
way.  Then, think of your talent--it was a divine gift.  Can you bear
the thought of making no return for it--of leaving absolutely nothing
behind you to show that John Hungerford, who was born with the soul of
a great artist--you know, Monsieur Jacques told you that--ever lived?
Oh, rouse yourself; start out anew, and make your mark in the world!"

Helen had spoken very earnestly, and it was evident that her words had
made a deep impression upon her listener, for it was with difficulty
that he preserved his composure.

"Do you think I can--now, after all the best of my life has been
wasted?" he breathed eagerly, but swallowing hard to keep back a sob
that almost got the better of him.

"I am sure you can," she cheerily responded.  "Make up your mind, first
of all, that you are going to get well; that will be half of the battle
won; and, with health and strength regained, the rest will be
comparatively easy.  I wish----"

She paused suddenly, as if in doubt of the wisdom of what she had been
about to say.

"What do you wish?" he inquired, as he keenly searched her thoughtful
face.

"I wish you would allow me to bring a dear friend to see you--some one
whom I feel sure would be a great help to you."

"Who is this friend?" John demanded, almost sharply, and with suddenly
averted face.

"A Mrs. Everleigh--the purest, sweetest woman I have ever known."

"Oh!"  A great fear seemed to vanish as the man breathed the one word;
but Helen, busy with her own thoughts, did not appear to heed him.

"Does she know----" he began again, after a moment, and then faltered,
a hot flush mounting to his forehead.

"She knows nothing, except that a Mr. Williams, whom I once knew in
California, has been very ill here at the Grenoble, and I, as a
neighbor, have been interested in him," Helen assured him.

During the four weeks of John's illness she had seen Mrs. Everleigh
three times; once her new friend had come to see her, and twice she had
been to her, and a strong affection had sprung up between them.  Helen
had been so benefited and uplifted by the woman's higher thought and
its practical application to daily living, it had occurred to her that
if she could bring John under her influence he might be inspired to
desire a new lease of life, and to try to redeem his past.

She had told her new friend of John, and of his sickness--had
intimated, as she said, that she had known him years ago in her old
home, San Francisco.  She gave her some idea of his great talent, and
how he had wasted it; but she had not mentioned the fact that he had
once been her husband, and the author of her own troubles, or that he
was under any obligation to her for the care and comforts he had
received during his illness.

"Why do you wish me to meet this Mrs. Everleigh?" John inquired, after
silently considering the proposition for several moments.

"I want you to know this grand woman.  She will do you good; she will
inspire you to take a different view--to have a better
understanding--of life and its obligations," was Helen's earnest
response.  "She will not preach to you," she hastened to add, as she
saw an uneasy look flit over his face.  "She is no officious
missionary, going about trying to reform the world at large, and I
shall simply introduce her to you as a friend whom I thought it would
be pleasant for you to meet after being shut up here for so long,
and----  Well, I am sure you will find her irresistible."

A smile, half of amusement, half of skepticism, curled her listener's
pale lips.

"You have certainly aroused my curiosity, and you may bring your friend
whenever you see fit," he observed, but more to please Helen than
because he felt any special desire to meet her paragon of excellence.

"Let me say you have a rare treat in store," she returned, adding, as
he manifested signs of weariness: "But you must not talk more now; try
to rest and think cheerful thoughts, and you will be stronger
to-morrow."

She arose as she concluded, and, with a kindly good-by, quietly left
the room.



CHAPTER XIX.

JOHN HUNGERFORD BEGINS LIFE ANEW.

John was not as well the following day, and the new impulse with which
Helen's visit of the previous day had inspired him seemed to have lost
its grip upon him, while all his former listlessness and indifference
to life returned.

Previous to her call, Helen had interviewed Doctor Wing regarding the
condition of his patient, and he had told her that, while the crisis
appeared to have been well passed, and there were indications that he
might rally for a time, he had grave doubts regarding his ultimate
recovery; for, aside from certain threatening conditions, the man was
laboring under great mental depression, and appeared to have no desire
to live, which, of itself, was by no means an encouraging phase.
Consequently she had not been wholly unprepared for John's own
admission that he was glad he was not going to get well.

But since her acquaintance with Mrs. Everleigh, Helen's views regarding
many things pertaining to life had radically changed.  She did not
believe that John's case was hopeless, notwithstanding the unfavorable
outlook, and she resolved that he should be saved--he should have
another chance to prove himself a man, and a great artist, if there was
any power that could save him; and she felt assured there was.

She went immediately to her friend, to whom she explained the
situation, and Mrs. Everleigh promised to go to see "Mr. Williams" the
following day.

She came late in the morning, when, refreshed by a good night's rest,
he was feeling much brighter and stronger than on the previous day.
And the moment he heard her speak, and looked into her eyes, he knew
that all Helen had said of her was true.

She was a brilliant as well as a beautiful woman, for, aside from
having been finely educated, she had always enjoyed rare social
advantages.  There was also a merry vein in her nature, and she had not
been many minutes in his presence before John found himself laughing
out spontaneously over her vivid description of a ludicrous incident
that had occurred on her way to the Grenoble to see him.  This set him
immediately at his ease with her, and they dropped into a free and
interesting discussion of various topics that lasted for nearly an hour.

When Mrs. Everleigh finally arose to go she observed, with charming
cordiality:

"I have enjoyed my call so much, Mr. Williams, I am coming again soon,
if you will allow me."

"You are very kind, Mrs. Everleigh, and I assure you it will give me
great pleasure to have you do so," he replied, with all the old-time
courtesy of the once elegant John Hungerford.

"And I will send my car around for you as soon as you feel strong
enough for a drive," the lady continued brightly.  "You need to get out
into this crisp fall air, and before long you will feel like a new man;
the world will seem like a different place to you."

John's face fell suddenly.  Until this moment he had not once thought
of himself since her coming.

"I fear that will never be," he said, in a spiritless tone.  "There are
strong indications that before very long I may be in a different world
from this."

"Who has dared to pass such sentence upon you, Mr. Williams?" gravely
questioned his companion.  "Put that thought away from you at once; it
is your rightful heritage to be a strong, well man, and--you still have
work to do here."  Then she smiled cheerily into his face as she held
out her hand to take leave of him, adding: "But we will talk more of
that when I come again."  And she went away, leaving John with a sense
of something new having been born into his consciousness.

He walked to a window, and stood looking thoughtfully out over the
roofs and chimney pots, while a voice within him, that seemed almost
audible, repeated over and over: "It is your rightful heritage to be a
strong, well man; and you still have work to do _here_."

That same evening, the duties of the day being over, Helen went in to
see him again, and to inform him that she had received a second letter
from his uncle, Mr. Young, who had sent her another check for fifty
dollars, which she laid before him as she spoke.

He pushed it almost rudely from him.

"Keep it," he said, flushing sensitively; "I cannot take it."

She appeared to heed neither his act nor his words, but casually
inquired, while she observed that he looked better and brighter than
when she last saw him:

"Where is your painting outfit, John?"

"Sold at auction, I imagine," he replied; then continued, with painful
embarrassment: "I may as well tell you exactly how matters stand with
me.  Marie left me--that is, we had a final falling out--more than
three years ago.  She immediately broke camp, sold off everything--even
my kit--and cleared out; went West and got her bill from me, and I've
drifted about ever since.  We didn't have a very happy time together,
and I----"

"You need not tell me any more," Helen here abruptly interposed.
"Forget it, if you can."

"Oh, Helen," he burst forth, with exceeding bitterness, "I wish I
_could_ forget it!  I wish I could wake up to find these last ten years
only a miserable nightmare!"

"I think you are waking up from a very bad dream, John," she returned,
in a friendly tone.  "You are looking decidedly better, and it rests a
good deal with yourself whether you continue to improve."

"Marie is dead--was killed, or, rather, fatally injured, and died in
the Mercy Hospital a few months ago," resumed John, not to be diverted
from what he had been saying.  "I did not learn of it until it was all
over, or I would have gone to----"

"Yes, I know; I read of the accident," Helen again broke in upon him,
and somewhat startled to learn that he had been in New York at that
time.

But she felt that she could not discuss that chapter of his life with
him.  Her chief desire now was to start him upon the right road to
redeem his past, if that were possible; then leave him to work his own
way to a more prosperous future.

"Now, let there be no more looking back," she hastened to add; "do not
waste time in vain regrets over what is behind you, but keep your face
steadfastly toward the light of the new day that is dawning upon you.
You are really better--you are going to get well; you will take up your
art again, and you will do something worth while."

"Upon my soul, I wish I might!" he said, in a low, eager tone, and
secretly encouraged by her positive assertions.

"Then if you really wish it, suppose you begin at once," Helen
proposed, with inspiring energy.  "Take some of this money your uncle
has sent, get what materials you need, and go to work, doing a
little--what you are able--every day.  Make out a list of what you
require, and I will place the order for you; here are pencil and paper.
I will come for the memorandum directly after breakfast to-morrow
morning, take it to Bronson's, have the things sent up immediately, and
you can make a beginning before the day is out."

She pushed some writing materials across the cable to him, and then
arose to go.

The man lifted a wondering glance to her.

"Helen, you are a marvel to me!  You have put new life into me," he
said, with deep emotion.  "I am simply overwhelmed by your goodness--I
wonder that your heart is not filled with bitter hatred for me."

Helen flushed consciously at his words, and moved away to the mantel,
where she stood musing for a few minutes as she gazed down upon the
glowing logs in the fireplace below.

How she had struggled with the demon of hate no one save herself would
ever know.  But she had finally conquered her foe.  She knew she had,
from the simple fact that she experienced only the feeling of
satisfaction in knowing that John would get well--that she wanted him
to get well; while she firmly believed that he would be a better man in
the future for the helping hand she had given him and the interest she
had manifested in him.  No, she no longer bore him the slightest ill
will; instead of cherishing antagonism and resentment, she had come to
regard him as her "neighbor," a brother man, for whom she would do only
as she would be done by; and, having once attained this attitude, a
great burden of self-condemnation had rolled from her heart and left
her at peace with him and the world.

"No, John, I have no hatred for you," she at length gravely observed,
but without turning toward him.  "Once I--I could not have said this,
but I have learned, through bitter experience, that hate harms the
hater rather than the object of his hatred; that it corrodes, corrupts,
and destroys him mentally, morally, and spiritually; and to-day I can
truly say that I only wish you well--wish that you may grow strong, not
only physically, but in every other higher and better sense of the
word, and make for yourself a name and place in the world, that will
compel all men to respect you.  I know you can do it, if you will."

As she ceased she turned abruptly, and, with a low-voiced good night,
slipped from the room before he could detain her.

The man sat motionless and absorbed in thought for a long time after
she had gone.  Every word she had spoken had sunk deep into his
consciousness, and had shown him, directly and indirectly, not only
what she had overcome and suffered in her struggles with adverse
circumstances, but how she had won the greatest battle of all--the
conquest over self.  At last he lifted his bowed head, and revealed a
face all aglow with a new and inspiring purpose; at the same time there
was a look of keenest pain in his eyes.

"I will do it!" he breathed hoarsely.  "But, good God, what a royal
heart I have trampled beneath my feet!"

* * * * * * *

Three weeks later John Hungerford left the Grenoble apartments, a
comparatively well man.

Meantime, having, through Helen's energetic efforts, obtained the
necessary materials, he had labored industriously, and with a
constantly growing interest, at his easel, gaining flesh and strength
each day, while something seemed to be burning within him that he had
never been conscious of before.

What was it? he wondered, with almost a feeling of awe--this
ever-increasing energy of purpose, this resistless zeal, that was
pushing him forward and lifting him above anything he had ever aspired
to in the years long gone by?

Was it the soul of the great artist, in embryo, that at last was really
beginning to expand in its effort to burst its long-imprisoning
shackles and plume its wings for a lofty flight?

Mrs. Everleigh came to see him every few days, and her talks with him
opened up broader vistas of life and its obligations, and imbued him
with higher ideals and desires.  She insisted upon his going out every
day, and frequently sent her car to take him out of the city for an
invigorating drive in the country.

All this--the cheerful thought, the better purpose and outlook,
together with the kind attentions of those interested in him--could not
fail to develop faith and hope, with better physical conditions, also,
and his improvement was rapid.

During this time he had completed two very attractive paintings, which,
through the influence of his physician, were placed in a leading art
store, and sold at a fair valuation--enough to enable him to begin
business for himself, in a couple of inexpensive rooms in another part
of the city, which, however, he intended only to be a stepping-stone to
something better.

On the morning of his departure for his modest studio he did not look
like the same man who, bowed and broken, had come to Helen's door a few
weeks previous.  His form was erect, and had taken on a good coat of
flesh; his eyes were clear and bright; his face, tinged with the glow
of health, was full of hope, and his bearing characterized by a quiet
dignity, and also by an unaccustomed energy that bespoke a definite
purpose for the future.

An expressman had already taken away his boxes, and he had just sealed
and was addressing a letter, when Doctor Wing dropped in to give him a
friendly handshake and wish him all success in his new undertaking.

"May only prosperity attend you, my friend," he said, when, after
chatting a few minutes, he arose to leave and begin his daily round of
visits; "and, by the way, I have been sorry I didn't take one of those
pictures that were sold at Arlington's the other day.  Duplicate that
autumnal scene for me, will you?  Or make me something after the same
style."

John's lips quivered slightly as he received this, his first, order,
and at the same time recognized the underlying motive that had prompted
it.

"With the greatest pleasure," he returned, his voice a trifle husky;
"and, doctor, I can only regard this as another kindness added to the
many favors I have already received from you and shall always
gratefully remember."

Mrs. Everleigh made her appearance just at this moment, and her breezy
greetings relieved the physician of the embarrassment he was beginning
to experience, in view of John's expressions of gratitude, and he was
glad to be saved the necessity of replying.

She had told John the previous day that she claimed the privilege of
taking him downtown and installing him in his studio; she would call
for him at eleven, and it was to keep this appointment that she now
presented herself.

The whole-souled doctor and the lady had become very good friends
during John's convalescence, for not infrequently they had met in his
rooms, and now and then enjoyed a pleasant tilt at each other's expense
regarding certain differences of opinion.

Upon this occasion her coming appeared to arouse afresh his spirit of
jocosity, and they exchanged several glittering lances that put them
all in a very merry frame of mind, which was a good thing, for John,
not having seen Helen that morning, was somewhat depressed at the
thought of going away without a few last words with her.

At length Doctor Wing broke off in the midst of a hearty laugh over a
bright repartee from Mrs. Everleigh, saying, as he caught up his hat
and gloves:

"Well, this will not do for me, much as I dislike to tear myself away
from such pleasant company; but I am culpably neglecting my duties.
Mrs. Everleigh"--extending a cordial hand to her--"it has been a great
pleasure to know you, and I am hoping that our acquaintance will not
end here, even though"--the old roguish look again dancing in his
eyes--"you certainly stole a very clever march upon me here."

"How so?" she questioned, with an assumed air of innocence, but with an
answering gleam of amusement, for she could not fail to understand what
he meant.

"Why, as you well know, I lost my patient the day you first appeared in
this apartment," he returned, with mock severity.  Then he added, more
gravely, and much to his listeners' surprise: "And it is not my first
or second experience of the kind, either, with you people."

"Do you regret those experiences, Doctor Wing?" the lady gently
inquired.

He hesitated an instant; then met her eyes squarely.

"No, I do not," he frankly replied.  "Honesty compels me to admit it,
to confess that I have been exceedingly grateful for them, especially
upon learning that the patient had been very quickly healed after
changing practitioners--that a precious life had thus been saved, and I
had escaped the most painful duty demanded of a physician.  I do not
believe," he continued thoughtfully, "that any conscientious physician,
who had done his utmost to save life, has ever written the name of the
patient he has lost upon a death certificate, and appended his own
signature thereto, without experiencing a very depressing sense of the
inadequacy of materia medica."

Mrs. Everleigh had regarded the gentleman with mingled admiration and
wonder while he was speaking.

"Doctor Wing, you are a brave man!" she heartily exclaimed, as he
paused.  "And allow me to add that I appreciate the very noble attitude
you have revealed more than I can express.  I know of one other who,
like you, having exhausted his resources in certain complicated cases,
has even advised the patient to change the method of treatment, and
quick healing has resulted.  I presume there are many more physicians
just as conscientious and broad-minded, and I say all honor to such
men."

"No doubt I would be severely censured by the majority of my profession
for giving expression to such convictions," Doctor Wing continued, with
a slight shrug of his shoulders; "but I believe human judgment is not
the highest tribunal to which man is answerable for either his deeds or
opinions, and one must be true to the voice within if he would preserve
his integrity and peace of mind, and not become a mere puppet.  Please
do not misunderstand me," he interpolated, in lighter vein; "I am not
attempting to depreciate my own school, and I intend to stick to it
until I am convinced that there is a better.  At the same time, there
are existing conditions against which I, together with some of my
colleagues, have the courage of my convictions, and am ready, if
occasion requires, to take a radical stand."

"Such as what, please?--if you have the time to spare to tell me," said
Mrs. Everleigh, who had listened to him with deep interest.

"Well, in my opinion there should be absolute medical freedom, as well
as absolute religious freedom," he replied.  "No one school has any
moral right to persecute or seek to overthrow any other school, or
usurp authority to compel the public to submit to its method of
treatment, any more than any special religious denomination has the
right to wipe out other denominations, compel mankind to adopt its
tenets and submit to its mode of baptism.  All men have equal
rights--the right to say whether they will or will not have this or
that remedy for their diseases; this or that doctrine to save their
souls.  Any other attitude of class or government savors of bigotry and
tyranny; any law to enforce such conditions would be a criminal
infringement of man's moral and civil freedom, and a rank violation of
the boasted principles of our Constitution.  I see by your shining
eyes, my dear lady, that you fully agree with me upon these points," he
concluded, with a chuckle of satisfaction, as he viewed her beaming
face.

"I certainly do, Doctor Wing--you are an advocate for justice after my
own heart," Mrs. Everleigh heartily asserted.  "And let me echo your
words of a few moments ago: 'I hope our acquaintance will not end
here.'"

"Thank you, madam; and, since the desire appears to be mutual, we will
see to it that it does not," he smilingly replied, as he bowed himself
out.



CHAPTER XX.

FIVE YEARS LATER.

That evening, when Helen came home from a visit to Dorothy, who had
recently returned from her trip, and was pleasantly settled in her new
home, she found her "neighbor" gone.

Knowing that John was to leave that day, she had purposely planned to
be away in order to save them both the embarrassment of a formal
leave-taking.  She had seen him the previous evening, when they had
merely referred to the contemplated change, and had parted with a
simple "good night."

But John was not willing to leave her in any such unsatisfactory way,
and when she reached home, after her day up the Hudson, she found the
following note awaiting her:


HELEN: I could not go without some expression of gratitude for what you
have done for me, and which you persistently avoided last night.
Through your divine charity, I am going out from this place, not only
in perfect health, but a new man, mentally and morally.

When I look back----  But you have told me there must be no looking
back, no vain repining; I can see that is wise counsel, for I know that
only by blotting out the terrible past can I remain steadfast in the
new aspirations and purposes that have taken root in me since I have
been a pensioner upon your bounty.  Words are inadequate to portray
what I feel, in view of what I owe to you, and volumes of promises,
unfulfilled, have no weight; but I am going to try to make my future
attest the sincerity of my present determination to retrieve the past.
The father within me yearns mightily for his child, but I know I am not
yet worthy to claim her as such.  Some time, perchance, you may be
willing to have her know that, after long years of starving among the
husks and swine, the prodigal has come to himself, and is striving to
redeem himself.  JOHN.


Helen's eyes were full of tears as she finished reading this note; but
they were tears of thankfulness, in view of the fact that she had not,
like the priest and Levite of old, "passed by on the other side," and
left the wanderer to his fate.  The lost had been found; the man had
indeed become mentally and morally renewed, and she felt an absolute
assurance that John Hungerford's name would yet rank high among those
of other eminent artists of the world.

She had told Dorothy nothing regarding these recent experiences in
connection with her father's sudden reappearance.  She had given much
serious thought to the subject, for she wished to do right, to be just
to both Dorothy and to John; but in whatever light she considered it,
it did not seem wise that they be reunited at this time.  It was true
that John seemed to have really "come to himself, like the prodigal of
old," as he had said; but she reasoned that it belonged to him to prove
it.  His regret for the past appeared to be absolutely sincere; he was
full of enthusiasm to begin life anew upon a higher basis, and to put
into practice the promptings of an awakened conscience, together with
the better knowledge he had recently gained regarding man's individual
responsibilities.  But, as he had written her, "volumes of promises
unfulfilled have no weight," and until he could show himself able to
stand alone it were better for both, perhaps, that he did not come into
Dorothy's life.  She believed, too, that she owed it to Mr. Alexander
and his family also that nothing relating to their tragic past be
revived to cast a shadow upon their present harmonious domestic
conditions or their name.  Hence she decided that she would let
everything rest as it was, trusting that the future, governed by a
higher than human wisdom, would unfold that which was best for them all.

She was exceedingly thankful that Dorothy had been away during John's
entire illness.  She had returned only a few days before he left the
Grenoble, and had gone directly to her new home, where Helen and the
senior Alexanders received the happy couple, and where they had since
been busy getting settled.  Helen had also arranged to spend the day
that he moved with them, to make sure that Dorrie did not drop in
unexpectedly upon her, to make startling discoveries, and also to avoid
disturbing leave-takings with John.  When the young bride at length
came to her, the little studio was dismantled, and it was explained
that the rooms had been given up, as her mother's living apartment was
now ample for all her work.

* * * * * * *

Five years have passed.

Madam Helen Ford still occupies her handsome suite in the Grenoble
apartments, and pursues her chosen profession, still holding a warm
place in the hearts of her many friends and patrons, and
winning---literally and figuratively--golden laurels for herself, both
as an artiste and a noble woman.

Dorothy is supremely happy in her beautiful home, and in the devotion
of her adoring husband.  She is more lovely than ever, for she has
developed something of her mother's sweet, womanly dignity; and, with
her amiable disposition, her charm of manner, and reserve force of
character, is becoming a recognized power in the circle where she moves.

Mr. Alexander has ever been a very attentive and considerate
son-in-law.  He had always admired Helen exceedingly, from the evening
of their introduction, but after learning the history of her earlier
years--her sorrows, struggles, and conquests--he had regarded her as a
wonder.  Her unfailing courage, the depth, strength, and beauty of her
character; her wisdom as a mother, and her steadfast devotion to her
profession, all impressed him beyond measure, and he began to idealize
her.  That a woman whose life had been so blighted, who had been
deserted and left penniless, with a child to rear and educate, could
have risen to meet and conquer every adverse circumstance, assuming the
burdens and duties of both father and mother, yet preserving through
all the charm and sweetness of true womanliness, making the most of her
talents, and winning for herself and her daughter both affluence and an
enviable social position, seemed a marvel that caused him to bow in
homage before her shrine.  And Helen fully appreciated Dorothy's manly
husband, and grew to love him as well as if he had been an own son.

He had repeatedly pleaded with Helen to come and make her home with her
"children," but she had invariably replied: "My 'children' do not need
me, and I cannot become an idler yet."  And, indeed, her many patrons
would have regarded their loss as almost irreparable, had she ceased to
grace their functions; for her voice had lost none of its brilliancy or
sweetness, nor was her personality one whit less charming than of yore.

She had, however, of late consented to give up some of her younger
pupils, and this had given her more freedom--more time to spend and go
about with her dear ones, for she was still young at heart, and loved
to mingle with young people in their social pleasures.

During these years she had never seen John.  He had rigidly kept his
word, thus far, that he would "never trouble her again."  Through Mrs.
Everleigh she had learned, shortly after he had opened his studio
downtown, that he was doing well, having plenty of work, and getting
fair prices; and this success, she was inclined to think, was, in a
measure, at least, owing to the influence of that good lady herself.  A
few months after he left the Grenoble she had received a letter from
him, but he wrote very briefly, to explain that the check he inclosed
was intended to cover the expense of his illness while at the Grenoble,
including a generous thank-offering to Mrs. Harding for her devotion to
him at that time.

Doctor Wing had later been remunerated for his services, and had felt
himself more than repaid upon receiving a beautiful autumnal scene,
done in oils, for which the artist refused to accept anything but the
physician's receipted bill, he claiming that even then he was the
debtor.

Mrs. Everleigh also was the recipient of what she termed a "little
gem," and Helen, while studying it during one of her visits to her
friend, felt that it far exceeded anything she had ever yet seen from
his brush.  Then he suddenly disappeared from New York without telling
any one of his intention or future plans.

Long afterward, Helen read some complimentary notices, copied from both
London and Paris papers, referring to the work of a rapidly rising
American artist by the name of Hungerford; and this gave her great
encouragement for the time, but for the last two years she had seen
nothing relating either to his work or his whereabouts; and now and
then the fear that perhaps he had again lapsed into old habits that had
resulted in total failure would haunt and oppress her.

One afternoon in December, having an engagement to dine out, Helen made
an elaborate toilet, and had just put the finishing touches to it, when
her bell rang, and a registered package was delivered at her door.
Upon opening it, greatly to her astonishment, a bank book and a check
book fell into her lap, together with a letter, the superscription of
which she instantly saw was in John's handwriting.  With trembling
hands and quickened pulses, she unfolded the missive, and read:


HELEN: The inclosed books will, to some extent, explain themselves, but
I will add that I have deposited in the National Bank of Commerce of
New York, subject to your order, the sum of twelve thousand dollars.
If five thousand dollars were allowed to remain at interest for fifteen
years at five per cent, the result would be somewhere in the
neighborhood of the amount named above.  I am not going to rehearse the
past; I simply wish to say that I have put this money aside for
Dorothy, if you think it best to give it to her and explain how it has
come to her.  If, on the other hand, you feel it will disturb the
harmony of her life to recall a great wrong of the past, let it remain
to your own account, and use it as your heart dictates--it was really
your money, you know, although set apart for Dorothy.  I offer it in
all humility, as a tardy act of reparation, which conscience demands of
me.  I have prospered beyond my expectations.  For a year after leaving
New York I studied and worked under my old master, Monsieur Jacques,
who has been more than kind to me.  Since then I have had more orders
than I could fill, and nay name and work have been winning honorable
mention in various art centers.  I am now in New York, on an important
commission, but expect to return to Paris within a few weeks.  May I
come to see you, Helen, and ascertain if Dorothy, for whom my starved
heart is yearning beyond expression, will accept my offering, and grant
me an interview?  Address me at the Hotel Astor.  JOHN.


Helen was deeply agitated while reading this letter.  She fully
appreciated the writer's position in wishing to make amends for the
wrong he had done so long ago, and she wanted to deal justly by him in
all things.  But she did not quite know what to do about telling
Dorothy, for the passing over of this little fortune, that had so
unexpectedly fallen to her, would involve the rehearsal of many painful
details, that might, perhaps, mar her present happiness.

Dorothy had never known of her father's return, five years ago; for,
having been away on her wedding trip during most of his stay at the
Grenoble, Helen had no difficulty in concealing the fact of his
presence in the house from her.

Mr. Alexander was in prosperous circumstances; some time he would fall
heir to great wealth, and Dorothy would never need this legacy.  Still,
it was a peace offering--an effort to atone, which she felt, in justice
to John, should not be ignored or rejected.

Had she any right to deprive Dorothy of the privilege of accepting or
rejecting it, as she might see fit, or longer keep from her the fact of
her father's reappearance, his reformation, and the renown he had
recently achieved for himself?  Did she, herself, wish to see him
again?  Would it be just or kind to deny him audience, withhold
congratulations upon his success, and a Godspeed upon his future career?

These were difficult questions, and for the time plunged her in deepest
perplexity.

But she tried to reverse the situation, to put herself in his position
and to judge dispassionately what was the right thing to do.

John had evidently made good his avowed determination to retrieve his
past; the tone of his letter was both dignified and sincere; the spirit
of humility and fervent desire to make restitution, pervading the
letter throughout, deeply impressed her, and caused her to feel that he
was at last worthy to claim his daughter, provided Dorothy wished to be
reunited to her father.

"Dorothy is a practical, sensible little woman," she sighed at last.
"She is capable of deciding this matter, and certainly has the right to
speak for herself.  Yes, I must tell her."

She glanced at the clock.  It was after four, and Dorothy would be
there presently.  She was coming to spend an hour or two with her, then
Mr. Alexander was to take them to the Waldorf to dinner, and afterward
to hear Melba in "Il Trovatore."  She resolved to improve the present
opportunity, discuss the matter fully with her, and so free herself
from further responsibility, as far as her child was concerned.

She had barely arrived at this conclusion, when her bell rang again.

"That must be Mrs. Alexander, Nora; I am expecting her," she observed
to the maid who appeared to answer the summons.

So Nora, as had been her custom with Dorothy, touched the button
controlling the lower door, and, leaving the upper one ajar, went back
to her work.

Meanwhile Helen had stepped to the mirror over the mantel to refasten a
brooch on her corsage, which had become unclasped; then, at the sound
of approaching steps, she turned, with outstretched hands, to greet her
dear one, a fond smile on her lips, a glad welcome in her eyes, only to
find herself looking into the white, eager face of--John Hungerford!

All the light went suddenly out of her own face; her arms fell limply
to her sides; the smile froze upon her lips, and she caught her breath
sharply, shocked beyond measure by his sudden appearance.

"John!" she gasped, with white lips, a look almost of terror in her
eyes.



CHAPTER XXI.

SOME INTERESTING REVELATIONS.

"Yes; forgive me, but I simply could not wait to hear from you,
Helen--I had to come; I could not endure the suspense, so followed
close upon my letter, which," glancing at the package on the table--"I
see you have received.  Besides--I--had something else to say to you,"
he added, drawing nearer to her.

"Something--else," she breathed, as he paused, yet scarcely knowing
what she said.

"Yes; I have dared to hope--dared to come and plead that you will
forgive me the awful past and allow me to take care of you in the
future," he resumed, in tremulous tones.  "Wait--oh, wait!" he begged,
as she put out a hand to check him, "let me speak--let me empty myself.
I cannot conceive how I ever could have been so heartless, so selfish,
so--brutal toward the most faithful and self-sacrificing wife in the
world!  Let me atone--let me try to blot it out during the coming
years.  You shall never know a care nor sorrow from which I can shield
you.  My financial future is assured, I know I am a better man, and I
want to prove it to you.  This newborn love for work, for right living,
and noble achieving has made me yearn to mount even higher upon the
ladder of success, and you would be a continual inspiration in my
career; while, having been lifted out of the depths myself, I long to
save others as you saved me, and we could work together in this way,
for our faith and aims are now the same.  Helen--oh, Helen! will you
come back to me?  Can you--can you?"

He was as white as marble as he held out appealing, shaking hands to
her, his burning eyes fastened in agonized yearning upon her lovely
though colorless face.

But in spite of her exceeding pallor, Helen had never appeared more
beautiful in her life.  She was the picture of health.  Her splendidly
developed form was clad in a rich evening gown of silver-gray chiffon
velvet, elaborately decorated with duchess lace and touches of rose
pink here and there to give it life.  A costly comb of gold gleamed
among the massive coils of her bright hair, which scarcely showed a
thread of silver even yet; a curiously wrought chain, to which a
diamond cross was attached, was clasped around her white throat, and
handsome diamond-studded bands of gold--a recent gift from her devoted
son-in-law--encircled her shapely arms.  With her beautiful, high-bred
face, and these becoming and elegant accessories of costume, she was a
most attractive woman.

While John was speaking, she had stood motionless regarding him with
mingled astonishment and dismay.

He had never seemed so manly to her before.  He had become more erect;
his form had expanded, and he bore himself with a masterful dignity and
self-possession that bespoke a wonderful growth in character.  His face
was earnest and purposeful; his clothing was fine and rich in texture
and fitted him perfectly; his linen was immaculate.  What a contrast to
the broken-down, shabby suppliant who had come to her door five years
previous!

He now looked the cultured, distinguished gentleman, and she knew he
was a "better man"--clean within as well as without.

Why, then, did not her heart respond, her pulses quicken, to his
impassioned appeal?

She could not tell; she was simply appalled, breathless, almost
paralyzed by his words.

"Oh," she faltered, when he ceased speaking, "why did you come?"

A groan of agony escaped him at this involuntary betrayal of her
attitude toward him.  His hands clenched convulsively, then dropped
heavily to his sides; the veins swelled out full and hard upon his
forehead.

"Because I could not keep away.  Because, ever since that day when you
bade me try to live, start out anew and make my mark in the world, I
have had but one aim--one overmastering desire in life--to make myself
worthy of your esteem; to win an irreproachable name and position in
the world to offer you, and atone, if ever so little, for what I made
you suffer during those dreadful years of our early life.  It was you
who aroused the dormant spark of manhood within me; now let me share
with you the fruits of that awakening.  Oh, Helen!  I honor,
reverence--I love you as never before; let me prove it."

The man's voice, which had grown hoarse and painfully intense during
this appeal, suddenly broke and became almost inaudible as he ended his
appeal.

Helen was also deeply moved.  A great trembling seized her; the room
began to grow dark; she swayed dizzily where she stood, and then sank
weakly upon a near-by chair, but involuntarily throwing out a repelling
hand, as John sprang forward to her assistance.

He paused abruptly, at her gesture, as if he had received a mortal
blow.  Was his presence so repulsive to her that she could not endure
to have him come near her?

For the moment he was crushed, humiliated beyond the power of speech;
then he slowly drew himself erect, his chest heaving with a long,
shuddering breath as he strove to recover something of self-possession.

"Helen!" the name burst sharply from his hueless lips; "that means that
I have asked too much--that you cannot----"

"No, John, I cannot," she gently interposed.

The kindness in her tone half reassured him.  He leaned eagerly forward
to search her face, but knew instantly from the look in her sorrowful
though unresponsive gray eyes that his hopes were vain.

"Oh, I might have known you never could forgive----" he began, when she
interrupted him again.

"I have forgiven."  Her voice was tremulous but very sweet.  "I hold no
bitterness against you in my heart--the last vestige was blotted out
five years ago, as I then assured you, and to-day I realize that you
are as worthy of my esteem as any other man who has resolutely overcome
the errors of his past and is steadfastly adhering to high ideals and
noble purposes.  I can and do rejoice most heartily in the conquest you
have won," she went on, speaking with more calmness--"in the fame and
prosperity you have achieved, and which I am sure you will continue to
win.  But--John, the ties which once united us were too hopelessly
severed to make it possible for us ever to piece them together again.
When I pledged myself to you thirty years ago it was a lifelong vow I
took.  When the law annulled that union and--you formed other
relations, it was the same to me as if death had claimed you--I gave
you up, as absolutely and hopelessly as if you had literally been
buried from my sight; it was an unconditional surrender--the bond that
had united us was rent asunder, leaving a great gulf between us, and I
knew that the void thus made could never be filled again.  Then I took
up my life to live it alone, and--thus I shall live until the end."

The man had stood before her while she spoke, with averted face and
bowed head, which sank lower and lower as she proceeded, until it
rested upon his breast, while his attitude was like one bereft of hope.

"I cannot bear it, Helen--even though I know the sentence is just," he
faltered, at length breaking the silence.  "It was through your
heavenly compassion five years ago I gained a new lease of life, and
that life I solemnly vowed should be spent in the effort to master the
weaknesses that had been my ruin, and bereft me of all that a true man
holds most sacred--family, home, and reputation.  Clinging steadfastly
to this resolve and your dauntless motto--'that there is hardly any
situation in life so adverse that it cannot be overcome if one only
goes to work in the right way'--I have conquered self in many ways.  I
have won a competence and some measure of renown as an artist; and my
one inspiration throughout has been the hope of a blessed reunion with
my dear ones.  Failing in this, the future holds nothing but emptiness
for me," he concluded dejectedly.

"The future holds all good for you, John," Helen returned, and, as once
before during his illness, her voice was full of strength and
encouragement.  "You have, as you say, learned how to overcome--how to
govern your life by principle instead of by impulse, and so have found
your true manhood.  And you will keep on in the same way, for, as we
know, there is but one goal for us all--one ultimate attainment really
worth living for--the full stature of the perfect man."

"But I wanted to atone to you--to take care of you--to bear burdens for
you, as you once bore them for me; I want to make you happy, Helen----"

"You have already done that," she said, smiling up at him through eyes
that were full of tears.  "To know what you have been doing--what you
have been achieving during the last five years--to see you as you are
to-night--redeemed--gives me greater joy than you can realize."

He turned and walked away from her.  He was crushed--almost on the
point of breaking down utterly before her, notwithstanding his manhood,
in view of this bitter disappointment.  Yet he began to understand that
the old ties, which he himself had so ruthlessly severed, could indeed
never be pieced together again.  There was between them a great gulf,
in whose fathomless depths there lay a royal heart rent in twain, and a
priceless love slain by his own reckless folly.  How could he bear to
live out his life bereft of all his fond hopes?

Presently, having in a measure regained his composure, he returned to
her.

"At least you will allow me to make some substantial provision for your
future," he observed, with a pathetic air of humility.  "That surely is
my right after my culpable improvidence of those early years.  My
income is ample, and constantly increasing.  I will settle an annuity
upon you for----"

"But I do not need it, John, although I thank you for the kind
thought," Helen gently interposed, her heart aching for him, and
feeling that she herself could not much longer endure the strain of the
interview.  "My own income is more than sufficient for my support,
especially now that Dorothy is settled in life; and, besides, I could
not be happy to give up my work.  Ah!" breaking off suddenly, as her
bell rang once more--"that must be Dorothy; I am expecting her."

"Dorothy!  And I am here!" the man exclaimed, in dismay.  Then, a sharp
ring of pain in his tones: "Helen, am I never to see Dorothy?"

She hesitated an instant, thinking rapidly.

"Yes, I think you should see her," she then said.  "At least, I will
tell her that you have returned, show her your letter, and she shall
decide for herself.  But, wait! you cannot get out now without meeting
her, and the shock would be too much for her to run upon you without
any preparation; step into the library behind you for a few minutes."

She waved him toward the room, and he slipped into it, partly closing
the door, just as Dorothy blithely swept through the reception hall and
clasped her mother in her arms.

"Mamma, dear, how lovely you are!" Dorothy exclaimed, in a sprightly
tone, as she fondly kissed her.  "Your gown is vastly becoming; but
aren't you a trifle pale to-night? or is it that tone of gray?  Sit
down, do, and when I get my things off I have something very important
to tell you."

She threw off her elegant evening cloak and stepped forth, radiant in a
beautiful costume of pale-pink silk, chiffon, and lace, while the
nodding plumes of the same color on her dainty hat lent a piquant charm
to the happy, sparkling face beneath.

"Now, I have great news for you," she resumed, sinking upon a low chair
beside her mother, and beginning to pull off her long white gloves.
"Whom do you think Clifford met to-day at the Gotham Club?  Oh, I am
sure you could never guess, and I--I don't quite know how to tell you
without giving you a tremendous shock; but the--the stranger was--oh,
mamma!"--with a little nervous catch in her breath--"my father!"

"Dorothy!"

It seemed to Helen the most marvelous coincidence in the world that
Dorothy should have thus been already prepared, in a measure, for what
she was about to reveal to her!

"Wait, dearie--just try to be calm until I tell you all about it,"
Dorothy continued tenderly, as she slipped a supporting arm around
Helen's waist.  "It was Mr. Carruthers who was entertaining, and it
goes without saying that he never dreamed he was introducing the
father-in-law to his son-in-law.  Clifford, evidently, was the only one
of the company who comprehended the situation, for, of course, he
recognized the name, and then I had shown him that photo, which I have
always kept.  It seems that he--my father--has been abroad again for
several years, devoting himself to his art, and has won great honors;
has had pictures hung in Paris and London exhibitions that have been
raved over, and it is said he has made a great deal of money.  Mr.
Carruthers met him first in Paris, and says he stands high there with
the best artists, and is a conscientious as well as a tireless
worker----"

"Dorrie--I----"

Helen was on the point of checking her, for Dorothy's voice was so
earnest, so full of animation, she thought John could not fail to hear
every word.  But Dorothy would not be checked.

"Wait, mamma," she interposed; "I know just how you feel, for all the
strength went out of me, and I almost broke down when Clifford told me
about it, and what a prepossessing gentleman he is to-day; he says that
whatever he may have been in the past, he is sure he is fine now,
through and through.  Dear," she went on tremulously, "it nearly takes
my breath away to know that he has come back--is actually here in New
York; and if he has changed--has become all that they say he has, it
shows that there was good in him--I wonder what kind angel found him
and rekindled the vital spark.  It makes me sorry, too, that I was
quite so bitter against him, and said such cruel things to him that
last day--I could almost wish to see him again if--if it were not
for--that woman----"

"She is dead, Dorothy."

"Mamma! how do you know?"

"I have known it for more than five years, dear," Helen gravely
returned; and, thinking she might as well tell her story now, for she
saw that Dorothy was inclined to be lenient toward her father, and
there was no reason why they should not meet at once.  "While you were
away on your wedding trip," she resumed, "he--your father--came
here----"

"Here!"

"Yes; I have never mentioned it, for you have been so happy I could not
bear to tell you anything unpleasant.  He saw me one evening on the
boat, as I was coming home after putting your house in order, and
followed me here.  He looked poorly--was really ill, and I sent him to
Mrs. Harding for the night.  He was taken alarmingly worse before
morning, when I had him brought here, and Mrs. Harding took care of
him, in the studio, for several weeks----"

"In the studio!" repeated Dorothy, breathless from astonishment.  "Did
she know who he was?"

"No, dear; he gave his name to her as Williams, and she has always
believed he was some one whom I had once known in California, and
wished to befriend in his trouble--at least, until his relatives could
be notified."

"Then he was here after I returned?"

"Yes, for a few days only; but, before that, as soon as he began to
gain strength, he seemed to want to take up his work again.  He painted
two lovely pictures here, then hired a couple of rooms downtown, where
he worked until he made enough money to take him abroad again."

"Mamma! then _you_ were the good angel who rekindled the vital spark!"
cried Dorothy, who was now almost sobbing.

"It has comforted me, dear, to think that I may have helped to inspire
him to take up his art again," Helen returned, adding: "But it was Mrs.
Everleigh who was really his 'good angel.'"

"Mrs. Everleigh!"

"Yes, I brought her here to see your father, and you know what she is
able to do for people who will listen to her; but I will tell you more
about that later."

"Did she know _who_ he was?" Dorothy inquired.

"No, dear; no one has ever known anything except as I told you--that he
was an old acquaintance whom I would not allow to be taken to a
hospital."

"Have you never heard from him since he went away?"

"Yes; several months after he opened his studio--I think it must have
been just before he went abroad again--he wrote me a brief letter, and
inclosed a liberal check to cover the expenses of his illness, he
said," Helen explained.  "Now and then," she continued, "I have seen a
newspaper notice commenting favorably upon certain pictures he had
painted, and I have rejoiced in his success.  This afternoon I received
a package from him----"

"Oh!"

"Here it is, with the letter accompanying it.  Read it, dear, and then
it will rest with you to say what shall be done regarding the matter of
business to which he refers."

Helen laid the missive on Dorothy's lap as she concluded.

"How wonderful!" breathed the young wife, as she seized and unfolded it
with eager hands.

Tears rained over her cheeks, as she read; but she dashed them
impatiently away and devoured the pages to the end.

"Oh, what a transformation!  And isn't it beautiful to read between the
lines and realize all that it means?" she cried, a note of exultation
in her tremulous tones.  "He loves me still! he wants to see me!
And--we should accept this money," she went on thoughtfully; "don't you
think so?  It would be unfair, unkind, to refuse it, when conscience
has prompted him to make this restitution; unless, mamma, dear, you
shrink from receiving it and from meeting----"

"Dorothy," Helen hurriedly interrupted, "it shall be as you say; if
your heart yearns for your father----"

"It does--it really does; I feel that he is good and true and worthy."

"I am sure he is, dear," said Helen heartily; "and if you can give him
the welcome he craves, and so help to make his life brighter in the
future, it will give me joy to have you reunited."

"That is simply angelic of you, mamma," Dorothy eagerly exclaimed.
Then, leaning nearer, she looked deep into her mother's eyes.  "And
you, dearest?" she questioned.

But her mother's lips were mute.

They held each other's gaze in silence for a minute; then Helen bent
forward and softly kissed her daughter on the lips.  It was as if she
had said: "That book is sealed forever."

Dorothy's beautiful face clouded with a look of keen pain.

"Yes, I can understand," she murmured, scarcely above her breath, and
with a regretful sigh.  "But you will let him come, as he begs in his
letter--you will see him just once, to--to congratulate and wish him
well; will you not?"

"Dearest, I have already seen him."

"Mamma! when?" cried Dorothy, startled beyond measure.

"Just before you came in--immediately after receiving the package.  He
could not wait for a reply to his letter--I had barely finished reading
it when he came.  He is here now--in the library--waiting to see you."

Dorothy sprang to her feet as if electrified, as indeed she was.

"Here!" she exclaimed, her voice resonant with joy.  "My father here!"



CHAPTER XXII.

A HAPPY REUNION.

What of the man sitting alone there in Helen's library during the
interview between Dorothy and her mother as just related?

Obeying Helen's behest, he had slipped into the room just as Dorothy
entered the reception hall, where he had dropped into a chair, and sat,
with his elbows on his knees, his face buried in his hands, like one
bereft of hope--dazed, almost benumbed by his crushing disappointment
in view of Helen's obvious attitude toward him.

For five long years he had lived and labored for this hour; with one
high aim and end--one coveted goal set before him.

His aim was to redeem his wasted life.  To do this meant, first of all,
to make of himself a man worthy of the name--a man, the pattern of
which he had caught an inspiring glimpse during Mrs. Everleigh's
never-to-be-forgotten visits to him at the Grenoble five years ago.
And second, to achieve fame and fortune by means of the great gift with
which he had been endowed, but which he until now had never fully
appreciated, or possessed the energy and stability to develop and
perfect.  And the end, the goal upon which his heart had been fixed,
was to win back the beautiful and wonderful woman who had once been his
wife, and with her his lovely daughter.

Only he himself knew what battles he had been forced to wage, while
trampling under his feet the John Hungerford of former years; with his
indolence, ease-loving habits, with his aversion to everything like
real work and the propensity to shirk every possible responsibility; or
how, during his first year or two in Paris, he had struggled with
poverty, living in one poor, ill-furnished room, denying himself the
luxuries, sometimes almost the necessities, of life, in order that he
might avail himself of the coveted instruction of his old teacher.

Upon his arrival in Paris he had at once sought Monsieur Jacques--who,
however, received him somewhat coldly at first--frankly stated his
position to him and begged that he would accept him as a student
again--at least until he could get a start for himself.

When the kind-hearted Frenchman was convinced of his sincerity--when he
saw how eager he was for real work, he was overjoyed, and all his
former interest in, and enthusiasm for, his old favorite, who he felt
assured possessed the soul of the great artist, was aroused, and from
that hour he spared no pains to encourage and inspire him to the
highest achievements.

John himself was indefatigable.  He gave the closest and most
conscientious attention to his work; no criticism or suggestion from
Monsieur Jacques was unheeded; the smallest details were most carefully
observed, and his progress was almost phenomenal.  The soul of the
great artist was at last thoroughly awakened and began to live and
breathe and glow in every stroke of his brush.

At times his teacher was almost afraid that his zeal would exhaust
itself, or his strength fail; and occasionally he would compel him to
leave his easel and go with him to his country home for a day of rest
and recreation.

John's evenings were mostly spent in reading and study--in strange
contrast to the opera-loving, theater-going habitué of former years.

Many things that Helen had dropped, much that Mrs. Everleigh had said,
during those weeks of his illness at the Grenoble had shown him that
they were living in a higher and purer mental atmosphere than he had
ever known, and he craved to learn more of the faith or motive power
that made possible the invariable peace and serenity that illumined
their faces and exhaled from their presence.  He knew that if he were
ever to win Helen again he must first rise himself, mentally and
morally, to her stature.

At the same time he was daily becoming aware that, even though this
great boon were to be denied him--even though the broken threads of his
life could never be pieced together again, he was yearning, and would
ever continue to yearn, for this inspiring faith for its own sake.  He
had never forgotten the sense of something new having been born into
his consciousness with Mrs. Everleigh's first visit to him--something
that had been steadily expanding and unfolding within him until he had
come to recognize it as the insatiable desire for conquest and
dominion; conquest over self--dominion over all things unworthy in his
life.

When the merit of his work began to be recognized, when his pictures
began to be sold as soon as they were hung, no one was more jubilant
than Monsieur Jacques himself; indeed, he seemed proud as a father over
a gifted son.

"Ah, Monsieur Hungerford will be great--his work will live!" he was
wont to say when asked for an opinion by would-be purchasers; and such
praise could not fail to add value to the artist's productions and
bring him plenty of orders.  A strong and lasting affection grew up
between the two men; they often visited each other's studio--for by the
beginning of his third year John had been in a position to establish
himself in a handsome suite of apartments, with the simple legend
"Hungerford" hung in the great front window--where they spent many an
hour in social converse, or in discussing the merits and possibilities
of various schools of art.  When, during the last year before his
return to America, the great teacher passed from his sight, it seemed
to John that he had lost a dear father as well as a wise counselor.

Now, with name and fame established, with an enviable social position
attained, together with an assured competence, he had come back to his
own country, his heart beating high with the hope of a blessed reunion
with his dear ones--a hope that had been suddenly dashed to earth
during his recent interview with Helen; and despair filled his soul as
he sat there alone in her library and awaited the next move on the
checker board of his life.

Dorothy's clear, sweet voice, as it floated to him from the next room,
thrilled him through and through; and, as he could not fail to overhear
much, if not all, that was said, he gradually became more calm, and
began to take himself to task for his own shortsightedness.

He reasoned that he had been very unwise in coming upon Helen so
abruptly--walking in upon her without even announcing himself, like
some unbidden and unwelcome specter of the past.

He had been greatly surprised at having been admitted so
unceremoniously; no one had inquired at the tube who was seeking
entrance, and no one had answered when he asked if Mrs. Ford were in.
Instead, the lower door had been immediately unlatched for him, and he
had found the upper one open when he reached the suite.  Even then he
felt he should have rung her private bell and waited until some one
came; but, in his excitement, he had mechanically pushed the door
wider, when, seeing Helen standing at the mirror, looking more lovely
than he had ever seen her, he forgot all else save that he was once
more in her presence.

He began to realize how he had startled--shocked her beyond measure by
this impatient, unwarrantable intrusion upon her.  He should have been
more considerate--should have waited a day or two, until she had had an
opportunity to thoroughly master the contents of his letter and become
accustomed to the thought of his return; when she could calmly decide
and write him whether she wished to see him or not.  Yes, he had made
what seemed to him an irreparable blunder, and he was proportionately
miserable.

Then, as he caught something of what Dorothy was saying, as he detected
the ring of eagerness and even joy in her tones while she told of her
husband's meeting him at Mr. Carruthers' lunch; when she had said that
her heart really yearned to be reunited to him, for she now believed
him to be good and true and worthy, and--bless her dear conscientious
soul!--that she had been sorry, and condemned herself for the bitter
things she had said to him, the last time he had seen her, when he
deserved them all, and much more--he began to take courage again; and
it seemed as if he could control himself no longer--as if he must go to
her, take her in his arms, claim her as his own, and bless her for her
heavenly charity.  But he must not blunder again; he must not ruin his
only chance by again being too precipitate.  Perhaps, after all, Dorrie
might be his salvation--the one link that would eventually unite him
with the woman he adored.

He almost wept when Helen had said if Dorothy could receive him and
help to make his life brighter in the future, it would give her joy to
have them reunited; then held his breath to catch her answer to
Dorrie's question: "And you, dearest?"

When there came no reply, his heart sank again; especially when the
young wife had said she could understand, but begged her mother to meet
him just once to congratulate him on his success and wish him well.

But the minute following, when he caught those eager, joy-ringing
words: "Here! my father, here!" he was thrilled to the depths of his
soul--he could restrain himself no longer.

The next moment he was in her presence!

Dorothy stood breathless, motionless, for a brief interval, searching
his face with earnest, yearning eyes; then involuntarily she drifted
toward him with outstretched hands.

With a great sob of joy welling up from his heart, John Hungerford
gathered them in his, and, drawing her close to him, laid them upon his
breast, holding them there while he feasted his hungry gaze upon her
loveliness.

"Dorothy, my darling!  You do not repudiate me!" he faltered.

"No, indeed, papa!  I am glad--glad that you have come," she responded,
with an emphasis that left no doubt of her sincerity.

How his heart leaped with joy as the old childish form of address fell
upon his ear!  And there had been nothing forced about it, either; it
had slipped out as spontaneously as in their happiest days long ago.

As a child, Dorothy had been very fond of her father and he of her; but
as she grew old enough to perceive his moral weakness, her respect for
him had begun to wane.  Then, later, his indifference to duty, his
neglect of, and last his unfaithfulness to, his wife had hurt her
cruelly, had mortified her girlish pride, and aroused hot resentment of
her mother's wrongs.  Yet there had been times when she had longed with
all her heart for his cheery presence and genial companionship, and
when she had grieved sorely over those last bitter, disrespectful words
she had flung so passionately at him.

"You--are--glad!" he repeated, with deep emotion.

"Yes, to see you--to hear you speak; to know that you have found your
true self and your own place in the world, and I am very proud, too, of
that!"  She was beginning to recover her composure, although there were
tears in her voice as well as in her eyes.  "You do not look so very
different," she continued, smiling up at him through them, and drawing
a little away from him for a better view, "and yet you do; you are
stouter, you have grown a little gray--a little older, but your eyes
are the same, yet they are clearer, more tranquil; your face is graver,
but more peaceful, and you are more----"

"I hope I am more of a _man_, dear," he broke in upon her passionately,
then suddenly checked himself.  "But I am not going to recall the past
to mar this blessed reunion, and the future will prove whether I really
am or not.  I am filled with joy to find you willing to recognize the
tie of kinship between us; it tells me that you have forgiven me; it
augurs some measure of happiness for me in the coming years.  You
already know something of what I have been doing of late years," he
continued, after a slight pause; "your mother has told you--I could not
help overhearing some of the conversation between you--but you shall
learn more in detail later.  How strange that I should have met your
husband to-day!  Of course, I did not once suspect his relationship; he
had the advantage of me there, and no doubt was sifting me with those
clear, searching eyes of his.  Your husband!  To think of you being
married, Dorothy!  I cannot realize it!  I am sure Alexander is a fine
fellow, though."

"Indeed he is!" asserted the fair wife, flushing with pleasure at this
tribute to her dear one.  "I am more proud of him than I can tell you,
and very, very happy.  Listen!  I think he has just come in."

Her quick ears had caught the sound of a latchkey being inserted in the
outer door.  The next moment she turned to see her husband standing
upon the threshold, viewing, with evident astonishment, the interesting
tableau before him.

"Oh, Clifford, dear!" said Dorothy, throwing out a pretty, jeweled hand
to him, "come and greet my father, although I know that you have
already met him.  Isn't it wonderful that I should have found him so
soon after what you told me this afternoon?"

Mr. Alexander came forward and smilingly possessed himself of his
wife's hand, while at the same time he cordially greeted his new
acquaintance.

He had been strongly attracted to the man during their previous meeting
earlier in the day, and truly John Hungerford had lost nothing of the
personal charm of his earlier years.  Indeed, he had gained much in a
new and gentle dignity, and a certain purposeful poise that had come to
him with his awakening to the higher demands of life, and the stern
realities and experiences of the last five years.

Mr. Alexander had been somewhat fearful that his wife's peace might be
disturbed by her father's unexpected return, and now, even though he
sympathized with her in her evident happiness, he secretly wondered how
this reunion could be perfected without arousing unpleasant comment and
curiosity regarding the past history of the family.

He had searched Helen's face as he saluted her, but was unable to read
her thoughts, although he observed that she was exceedingly pale.

Dorothy graciously invited the gentlemen to be seated, and for fifteen
or twenty minutes they chatted pleasantly of the events of the day;
John keeping Dorothy close beside him and clinging to her hands as if
he felt her to be his only anchor of hope in this critical hour.

Now and then he ventured a look at Helen, who was sitting a little
apart, apparently listening; but her face told him nothing.  Her
exceeding loveliness, however, impressed him as never before, and not a
detail of her exquisite costume escaped his critical, artistic eye.

At length, after glancing at his watch, he arose, observing that he had
an appointment with a party who was about to place an important order
with him, and he must not linger longer, even though he was sorely
tempted to do so.

Mr. Alexander had been considering the propriety of inviting him to
join his party at dinner and later for the opera.  While he thought
Dorothy might be glad to have her father with them, he was not so sure
about Helen--he knew that this meeting must have been a great strain
upon her, and it was now quite a relief to him to have the matter
settled by Mr. Hungerford's reference to his important appointment.

"I have some pictures with me which I think will please you," John
continued, including them all in his glance as he spoke.  "I would be
glad to have you come to my hotel to view them privately, at your
leisure; and as soon as it will be convenient for you, for next week
they are to be hung for the exhibition of the Excelsior Art Club."

"We shall be delighted, and I can hardly wait to see them," said
Dorothy eagerly.  "May we come to-morrow?"

"Do, by all means; come and lunch with me.  Mr. Alexander, can you
spare the time to join us?" John inquired, turning to the gentleman.

"Certainly; and it will give me great pleasure to do so," he cordially
responded.

"Then shall we say one o'clock for the lunch?--if that will be
convenient for the ladies," and John Hungerford bent an anxious look
upon Helen as he concluded.

Helen had remained quietly in the background during the foregoing
interview, having merely nodded a smiling welcome to Mr. Alexander as
he entered.  She had been glad of the little respite to recover from
the excitement occasioned by John's unlooked-for coming, and also by
his impassioned appeal to her just preceding Dorothy's entrance.

Her father's invitation to lunch with him brought Dorothy to herself
with a sudden inward shock.

"Mamma, have you any engagement for to-morrow?" she inquired, turning
with an appealing look to her.

"Yes, dear; I go to Yonkers for Mrs. Forsyth's reception."

"Then let it be Wednesday, if that will suit you better," John quickly
interposed.

"Wednesday I am booked for a concert, and Thursday for a house party at
Tuxedo.  But pray do not let my plans interfere with yours; and, John,
I will see the pictures later," Helen concluded, in a friendly tone, as
she arose, came forward, and joined the group.  But intuitively the man
knew, with a sinking heart, that he would not see her again, except,
perhaps, as they might meet casually at the art club or some social
function.

There was a suggestion of finality in her calm, self-possessed bearing,
and even in her friendly tone, as she pleaded her engagements and
promised to view his pictures later, which told him that his most
cherished mission in returning to America had failed.

An icy chill struck at his heart, blighting all his fond hopes, and
marble could not be whiter than was his face as he mechanically made
his adieus and passed from the room.

At the door he turned and stood a moment, looking back at her, an
expression of mingled reverence and despair in his eyes.  Then, with a
slight renunciatory wave of his shapely hand, he was gone.



CHAPTER XXIII.

A FINAL RENUNCIATION.

The following day Dorothy and her husband lunched with Mr. Hungerford,
as had been arranged, and afterward viewed with delighted appreciation
the paintings that were soon to be exhibited at the Excelsior Art Club.
There were twelve in all, and they displayed remarkable artistic
ability, both in coloring and workmanship, together with certain
realistic suggestions that appealed at once to the admiration and
sympathies of the beholder.

As one studied them carefully one could not fail to be impressed with
the depths of thought and a certain something forcibly suggestive of
high ideals portrayed in them; or to recognize both the dignity and
purity of sentiment that had inspired the hand that had so skillfully
wielded the brush.  It was as if the artist's chief aim had been to
give all that was best in himself to kindle the noblest qualities of
heart in those who might look upon his pictures as long as they should
endure.

They were, in truth, beautiful poems in color, to feast the eye,
elevate and refine the thought--"songs without words," to make glad and
uplift all who were able to appreciate in any degree the divinity of
art.

Dorothy realized much of this as she went, day after day, to study
these treasures which her father had brought from his atelier in Paris,
and her heart glowed with ever-increasing pride in these unquestionable
evidences of his genius.  It also overflowed with devout gratitude as
she read, beneath the surface, the story of a wonderful consecration;
of the courage, fortitude, and perseverance which the man, in his
lonely exile, must have exercised in order to have been able to rise
out of the depths to which he had fallen to achieve such grand and
noble results.

One day she went alone for a last look at these beautiful pictures
before they were hung for the public to view.  Upon this occasion the
father and daughter had a long heart-to-heart talk with each other,
during which John confessed to Dorothy that he had allowed himself to
cherish strong hopes of a reunion with her mother, if he could prove
that he had become worthy of her.  He realized now, however, he said,
that under no circumstances could he be worthy, for he had cut himself
off from her, absolutely and finally, by that irreparable mistake of
long ago, and he ought to have known that such hopes could never be
realized.  Hence, as matters now stood, he thought it would be best
that the world should never be enlightened regarding their relationship
to each other as father and daughter.

"It could not be done, dear," he said, with lips that trembled
painfully, "without involving explanations and a rehearsal of past
history which would make your mother unpleasantly conspicuous in the
circle where she has maintained an honored position for so many years;
and I could not bear to have a breath of gossip touch her, to mar her
peace in any way."

"That is very considerate of you, papa," replied Dorothy, who had been
greatly exercised in view of the matter herself, after becoming
convinced that the breach of fifteen years ago could never be bridged.

She had already talked it over with her husband, and they had both
agreed that, for her mother's sake, it would be better that the
relationship between herself and the talented artist remain a secret
among themselves.  Still, it was not an easy task for her, as she sat
beside him, looking into his yearning eyes and listening to his
faltering tones, to assent to his self-sacrificing proposition to
relinquish his claim upon her, also.

John's heart sank at her words.  He had not quite given up all hope
until that moment; but Dorothy's noncommittal reply had seemed to
confirm his worst fears, that there was absolutely no hope of a reunion
with Helen.

"Then, for her sake, we will agree to----" he began, in a hopeless
voice.

"For your own sake, papa, as well as for hers," interposed Dorothy,
laying a gentle hand upon his arm, and almost weeping as she read the
misery in his face.  "We must not ignore the fact that it would not
leave you unscathed in the midst of your honors; and, I imagine, there
might arise other complications for us all."

He captured her hand and stroked it tenderly with both of his own.

"The problem might so easily have been solved if--if I could have won
her anew; then we could all have come together again naturally, and no
one would have been any the wiser regarding the past," he said.  "Oh,
Dorrie! do you think I could, even now?  _Is_ there no hope?"

His voice was hoarse from an agony of yearning as he concluded.

She could not answer him for a moment.  At length she lifted her
tear-laden eyes to him.

"Papa," she breathed, almost inaudibly, "I--know there is--a grave in
mamma's heart."

"The grave of a royal love brutally slain!  The grave of a love for
which there can be no resurrection!" he groaned.  "I know it, too--God
help me!  Well," he went on, after a struggle to recover himself, "she
has given you back to me as a pledge of her divine forgiveness, and for
this I am unutterably grateful.  So, dear, we will keep our secret from
the world, and make the most of our love for each other.  I shall go
back to Paris within a couple of weeks, take up my work again, and keep
on striving to accomplish something that will make the name of John
Hungerford worth remembering.  I shall, probably, never return to this
country, Dorrie; but you will occasionally come to me, will you not?
Say that you will grant me these oases in the desert of my future."

He looked so crushed, yet seemed so patient under his bitter
disappointment that Dorothy, with difficulty, refrained from sobbing
outright; but, forcing herself to speak cheerfully, she replied:

"I certainly shall.  Paris is only a week away, and Clifford and I will
enjoy slipping over now and then to spend a little time with you;
besides, he always goes to London on business twice a year and takes me
with him, so we shall see each other oftener than 'occasionally,' and I
will write you every week."

Thus it was arranged; and John tried to make the most of his reunion
with Dorothy--tried to be grateful that there would be some blossoms of
comfort to cull along the way, during what must otherwise be a very
desolate future.  Nevertheless, the crushing blow his hopes had
received, the bitter cup of renunciation he was forced to drink,
seemed, for the time, almost more than he could bear, and left their
crucial impress upon him.

He was a frequent visitor in Dorothy's lovely home on the Hudson during
the remainder of his stay in New York, and both she and her husband
exerted themselves to make his sojourn as delightful as possible, and
so give him something pleasant to remember when he should leave them to
resume his work and his lonely life abroad.

All Dorothy's old affection for him was revived during this visit,
while both her admiration and wonder increased more and more with every
interview, in view of his mental and moral attainments, to say nothing
of the rapid advancement he had made in his profession, and which
seemed likely to place him, at no distant period, in the foremost rank
of artists.  He certainly was a distinguished-looking man, and one
could not converse with him half an hour without becoming aware that
beneath the attractive exterior there were depth and strength of
character that would lead him still higher as years passed over him.

His work won honors at the exhibition of the Excelsior Art Club.  His
two finest pictures were marked sold on the opening day, and were sent
to grace Dorothy's home at its close.  The others were all disposed of,
and when the artist finally left for Paris he not only bore with him a
rich harvest from his brush, but several orders for paintings to be
executed at his convenience.

He had made his presence in the city known to Mrs. Everleigh as soon as
he could conveniently arrange to do so; and upon meeting him she had
also appeared deeply impressed by the great change in him.  It hardly
seemed possible to her that he could be the same man who, five years
previous, had expressed little hope of his life, and manifested no
energy or wish to prolong it.

At her request John had called upon her at her home.  When he sent up
his card bearing his own name instead of that of Williams, under which
she had previously known him, she came to him wearing a look of
perplexity; but she instantly recognized and greeted him cordially,
although she studied his face earnestly as she shook hands with him.

"My friend, there has certainly been a remarkable change in you," she
said.  "I am more than glad to see you, however, after all these years,
and"--smiling into his eyes--"I am sure you have been forging straight
ahead."

"You once told me, Mrs. Everleigh, that 'there was still work for me to
do here,' and I have been _trying_ to do it," John returned, with an
answering smile.

"I feel confident you have; but"--referring to the card in her
hand--"how is it that you have sent me this--that you now call yourself
John Hungerford?"

John explained that at the time he first met her, when he was so low
down in the world, he had dropped his last name, using his middle one
instead, to avoid recognition.

"You do not mean to tell me that you are John Hungerford, the artist,
who has been exhibiting at the Excelsior Art Club?" the lady inquired,
with sudden alertness.

"Yes--the same," he quietly replied.

"Well, I congratulate you!" she earnestly returned.  "I have seen your
pictures, but, of course, did not dream that I knew the artist.  You
certainly have been working to some purpose.  But how was it that you
ran away from us so unceremoniously five years ago?"

"That must have seemed rather ungrateful of me, I am compelled to
admit," said the gentleman, with a deprecatory smile.  "But I had
already been the recipient of too many favors; I felt I must begin to
stand alone--I had to _prove myself_--so I suddenly cut my cables, and
launched out into the deep."

"We all have to stand alone in the sifting process," returned his
companion.  "We all have to prove ourselves, and I believed that you
would make good; but I would have been glad of some tidings from you
now and then."

"Thank you; and it is very gratifying to know that you had that
confidence in me," said John, with evident emotion.  "I feel, however,
that I owe much to you for the measure of success I have attained, for
you taught me something of what life and its individual
responsibilities mean.  But for your and H--Mrs. Ford's unparalleled
kindness to me in my darkest hour, I shrink from the thought of what
might have been the alternative."

Mrs. Everleigh shot a quick glance at him as he made the slip on
Helen's name; then she gently observed, with her old winning smile:

"We must not forget the Power behind, my friend."

"No, dear lady, we must not; neither must we be unappreciative of His
faithful messengers," John gravely returned.

Then he proceeded to briefly outline something of his life and work
abroad, speaking in high praise of his teacher, Monsieur Jacques, and
his kindly interest in him; and referred modestly to his own success,
both in Paris and also during his present visit to America.

They spent a delightful hour together, and when he finally arose to go
Mrs. Everleigh named an early date for him to come and dine _en
famille_, "for," she told him, "I have not heard half enough even yet.
I must see more of you while you are here."

When he was gone she sat a long time in deep thought, evidently
reviewing the very interesting story John had related to her.  At last
she looked up with a slight start, a peculiar look sweeping over her
face.

"Hunger--_ford_!" she said aloud, dwelling with emphasis on the last
syllable of the name.  "I wonder----"

What she wondered can only be surmised, but, knowing what she did of
Helen's life--even though she had never been told the story in
detail--it is safe to say that a suspicion of the relationship between
John, Helen, and Dorothy had been aroused in her mind.

John did not see Helen again during the remainder of his stay in New
York.  Helen felt that it would be better for them both to avoid
another interview, and she persistently kept herself in the background.
But she went to see his pictures, as she had promised, after they were
hung at the art club, choosing her opportunity one day when Dorothy and
her father were out of town, and thus securing for herself plenty of
time in which to examine his work without fear of a personal encounter,
which would have been both awkward and painful for her.

She afterward wrote him a frank, friendly letter, in which she
expressed highest commendation of his beautiful pictures, and her
assurance that the future would bring him even higher honors.

She closed by asking him to paint her a portrait of Dorothy the first
time she went to Paris to visit him, which, she knew, would be in about
three months.

This request was like balm and oil to the man's wounded spirit, for it
assured him that she never would have made it if there had been aught
but good will in her heart for him, and immediately upon his arrival in
his adopted city--adopted, for he knew that it would henceforth be his
permanent home--he at once proceeded to fulfill her wishes, doing what
he could from memory and the aid of photographs, that he might not have
so much to do when Dorothy should arrive to give him sittings for the
finishing touches.

Six months from the time she had made her request, Helen received a
beautiful, richly framed, three-quarter size portrait of her dear one,
that was to make her heart glad during all her future years--glad not
only because of the faithful likeness, graceful pose, and artistic
costume, but because of the masterly work that proclaimed it a
production of high art, and which, to her, seemed like a priceless seal
set upon the complete redemption of the man who had once been her
husband.



CHAPTER XXIV.

A MASTERPIECE.

Three years later, at the earnest solicitation of Dorothy and her
husband, Helen temporarily gave up her work to make an extensive tour
abroad with them.

It proved to be, on the whole, a most happy and restful experience; and
yet there were times when a tear would start, or a regretful sigh
escape her lips as they went over ground and visited many places which
she had traversed with John during their ideal honeymoon, so many years
ago, and which could not fail to revive old associations.

But her two devoted children were delightful traveling companions, well
posted, observant, and thoroughly appreciative in their sight-seeing;
always careful for her comfort, and allowing her to rest whenever she
did not feel quite equal to their more vigorous desire to "miss nothing
that was worth while."

During these years previous to their trip, Dorothy had visited her
father, in Paris, several times, and when at home had corresponded
regularly with him; thus Helen had been in the way of knowing something
of the details of his life and work.

She had also read of various notable things he had done, from foreign
papers and art journals.  But he had never directly communicated with
her, nor she with him, except to thank him most gratefully for, and
express her delighted appreciation of, Dorothy's portrait when it came
to her carefully packed and ready to hang upon her wall.

She had realized that when they reached Paris, where they planned to
remain longer than in most of the places they visited, she would be
liable to see more or less of him, and she had taken this carefully
into consideration before giving her consent to the trip.  She felt
that if she went she must cast no shadow upon the pleasure of the
others.  Dorothy had again become very fond and exceedingly proud of
her father; Mr. Alexander also held him in highest esteem; hence, in
justice to all, her own attitude must, in some measure, at least,
conform to theirs.  She believed, too, that John understood her, and
would not allow himself to do or say aught that would disturb her
harmony, while she would be able to avoid awkward situations by always
having one or both of the young people with her.

John received them, upon their arrival, with delightful hospitality,
and they found that every possible arrangement had been made for their
comfort in one of the best pensions of the city, as they preferred to
be located thus, rather than in a less homelike hotel.

He had also a most attractive program planned for nearly every day of
their stay, subject, of course, to their preferences.  But Helen found
herself more weary than she had anticipated on reaching Paris, and
decided it would be best for her to keep quiet for a few days before
attempting to do very much sight-seeing.

As usual, she was allowed to follow the dictates of her own judgment,
while the others fell in with John's plans, and went about with their
accustomed vigor.

The third day after their arrival, one of Helen's former patrons, who
was residing just out of the city, and had known of her coming, came to
call upon her, and, seeing that she was not quite herself, begged the
Alexanders to give her up into her hands for a week or two, promising
to give her every care, and take her about to whatever points of
interest she desired or felt able to visit.

Dorothy was wise enough to see that it was not altogether weariness,
but something of a mental strain, under which her mother was laboring,
and she unhesitatingly, even eagerly, consented to the arrangement.  So
Helen was whisked away to Mrs. Hollis Hamilton's delightful villa,
where, with an unacknowledged burden lifted from her heart, she began
immediately to rally, and was quite herself again in a few days.

She saw John only twice after that, until the day before they were to
leave Paris.  They had planned several times to visit his studio, but
something unforeseen had interfered each day.  Now they could put it
off no longer, and that afternoon found them all gathered in his rooms
to view his treasures and have a little last visit together before
their departure on the evening express for Italy.

It was the studio of an artist who had won both wealth and renown;
richly furnished, artistically decorated, and hung with rare gems from
his own brush, as well as from that of others; besides being graced
with various costly curios, with some fine pieces of sculpture, upon
which one could feast the eye for hours at a time, and never become
weary of the privilege.

John had a few minutes' chat alone with Helen after they had made a
leisurely circuit of the rooms together, and during which he explained,
among other things--what interested her most--the underlying thought
that had inspired the subject and been wrought into many of his
pictures.

It was the last time he ever saw her, and the memory of her face as she
listened to and talked with him never left him.  As long as he lived,
it shed its luster on his pathway.  It was like a radiant star, newly
risen, which would henceforth illumine the gloom of his darkened
firmament and cheer his lonely hours.

She had been charming, had seemed to forget everything but her interest
in what he had been doing since his visit to America.  She showed
herself well versed in art, also--that she had kept up with the times,
and was even well posted upon some of his own more important works that
had received honorable mention in some of the art journals.  She was
eloquent, winsome, and witty by turns.  Her manner was frank and
gracious, without a vestige of self-consciousness to suggest that she
even remembered the tragedy of their earlier years; something as her
attitude might have been toward a brother or a friend in whom she was
deeply interested.  And when at length they paused in a great bow
window that overlooked a beautiful view beyond the sunlit Seine, she
observed, with glowing eyes:

"What a glorious thing it is to be a 'great artist!'  Yes," she added,
as he made a gesture of dissent, "Monsieur Jacques' prophecy is proving
true; I can see it unfolding more and more.  It is a rare and noble
gift to conceive exquisite mental pictures like these, and then be able
to portray them for others to enjoy.  Who can estimate their refining
influence upon the world, especially when one can _feel_ the uplifting
thought and inspiring lessons underlying their surface beauty?  If you
are putting as faithful work into your life problem, John, as you are
expending upon your art, you surely are making rapid strides toward
that 'goal' of which we talked three years ago."

"I believe I am honestly trying to do so, Helen," was his quietly
earnest reply; "but"--his lips whitening suddenly--"the way, at times,
has seemed toilsome and--lonely."

His voice almost broke on the last word.

Helen's clear eyes drooped; her face clouded for an instant, and, with
an inward shock of misery, John knew that his words had recalled the
lonely way she had once trodden, bearing both her own burdens and his.
He could have scourged himself for his thoughtlessness.  He had charged
himself that morning not to recall by look or word one sorrowful
thought to mar her visit to him.  But the next moment she looked up,
serene and smiling.

"That is an experience we all have at times, I fancy," she said.  "It
is a suggestion of that little demon--self-pity--that is liable to make
a great deal of mischief for us if we do not speedily conquer him."

"I have found that out for myself," he observed, with an answering
smile; "he is at hand to trip at every step, if one is not alert."

"And we know, John, there can be no company warfare, the battle is
individual, one must toil and fight alone for self-conquest.  It does
seem wearisome at times, but it is grand, too, for every individual
victory won is just so much more achieved toward the redemption of all,
because it lessens the evil in the world in exact proportion to our
achievements, and also becomes an incentive to others to buckle on
their armor and do likewise."

"That is a beautiful, helpful thought.  I shall not forget it," he
gravely returned.

"And I shall not forget my visit here," Helen went on brightly, "nor
this lovely view out over the Seine; these beautiful rooms, so
artistically arranged--they make an ideal studio--and particularly your
work.  It has made me very glad to know what you are doing and how you
are doing it."

"Thank you for telling me that," was all that John could trust himself
to say.

"By the way," she continued, after a moment, during which her eyes had
roved over the place with a lingering look, as if to impress it
indelibly upon her mind, "what have you behind those draperies?  I
thought it a window as I passed them; now I see it is not."

John glanced in the direction she indicated, then back at her,
hesitated, and for a moment seemed at a loss to know how to answer her.
At length he said:

"That is a picture upon which I have been working, at intervals, for
seven or eight years.  Many times I have thought it finished, but I am
not yet through touching it up--not quite satisfied with it."

"It must be something intensely absorbing," said Helen.  "What is the
subject, if you will not deem it an impertinent question?"

"I have called it 'My Inspiration,' because it and what it portrays
have long been that to me."

"How interesting!  You make me very curious.  May I see it, John?"

Again he hesitated, flushing slightly, and Helen, thinking perhaps she
had been presuming, was on the point of begging his pardon for her
thoughtlessness, when he smiled faintly, and replied:

"Yes; while I am showing Dorothy and Alexander a little gem in marble
in the other room, go and look at it--no one as yet, save myself, has
ever seen it."

He turned to the younger couple, who were approaching, and, saying he
had something to show them, led them into the adjoining room; while
Helen, experiencing something very like a sense of guilt for having
begged such a favor--a favor that as yet had never been granted
another, not even Dorothy, it appeared--stole to the curtained alcove,
loosened the knotted cords, parted the heavy draperies, and looked up.
A low exclamation of astonishment escaped her.

The picture was a full-length portrait of herself, wearing an evening
dress of silver-gray velvet, garnished with costly lace and touches of
rose pink, and standing just as she had stood that night, three years
ago, when John took leave of her in her apartment at the Grenoble.  The
figure and costume were perfect in every detail.  John had a remarkable
memory, and he had caught not only the unconscious grace of her pose,
but also the sheen of the velvet, and almost the exact pattern of the
lace she had worn.  And the face!  It almost made her weep as she
studied it, for she could not fail to read the tender, worshipful
stroke of his brush in its every line and feature.

She could not bear it; the story it told was too pathetic.  She let the
draperies fall gently back into place, reknotted the cords as she had
found them, and stole softly from the room into the reception hall,
where she waited, trying to recover her color and self-control, until
the others rejoined her.

Evidently they had been having a playful tilt over something, for
Dorothy was bubbling over with merriment, and both gentlemen were
smiling in sympathy with her mood.  Thus Helen escaped any sense of
awkwardness in meeting John again, or in the leave-takings that
followed; no reference was made to the picture; he did not even seem to
be curious as to how it had affected her, and she parted from him with
what appeared to be but a cordial handshake and a simple good-by.

But when they were gone, the man stood, white and motionless, for
several moments where they left him, struggling mightily within
himself.  The supreme test had come--the test of absolute and final
renunciation.  At last, with a quick indrawn breath that was very like
a sob, he went to the alcove where Helen had stood but a few minutes
before, loosened and drew back the draperies, and studied his picture
long and critically.

Then he brought his pallet and brushes, and worked with great care upon
it for nearly an hour.

At last he stood back and searched the face again.  He had changed the
eyes in some way that made it seem almost as if a living soul were
looking through them, and the lips wore a softer, tenderer expression
that was like a gentle benediction.

The new light in the eyes, and the sweeter lines about the mouth were
the result of what he had caught from Helen herself an hour ago while
they stood talking together in the great window overlooking the Seine.

"It is finished; and it is my masterpiece!" he breathed, as he
reverently drew the curtains over the picture again, and then went
thoughtfully back to his workroom.

* * * * * * *

During many years that followed, the work of John Hungerford continued
to win fame and fortune for the faithful artist.  A "Hungerford
painting" was regarded as a prize by its possessor, and its price as of
secondary importance; while, as a man, his name became the recognized
synonym of all that was benevolent, good, and philanthropic.

Struggling artists of merit were generously and tactfully helped over
hard places, and sent on their way rejoicing; the idler was kindly
reproved and inspired to more persistent effort; the prodigal and
profligate were sought after, and, with convincing argument and wise
counsel, won from their degrading and enervating pleasures to higher
appreciation of the talent with which they had been endowed; the
faint-hearted were encouraged, the sick befriended, the homeless
sheltered.  In fine, the distinguished artist was not only recognized
as an authority and a connoisseur in his profession, but also as a
great-hearted _Man_, whose beautiful and hospitable home, as well as
his studio, became a delightful and instructive resort for lovers of
art, or a refuge in time of need, as the case might be, and open to all
who, with worthy intent and honest endeavor, chose to avail themselves
of his generosity and kindness.

Thus John Hungerford not only labored assiduously to charm the eye,
elevate and refine the taste, and mold the character through the medium
of his art, but he also--having himself been disciplined and purified
by suffering, and redeemed by faithfully working out his own salvation;
having learned also the higher meaning of Life, and its sacred
individual responsibilities--became the beloved benefactor of many who,
in later years, followed in his footsteps, to enrich, in turn, the
lives of others.

Thus he abundantly fulfilled Helen's inspiring prophecy: "The future
holds all good for you, John," and so found peace, if not absolute
happiness, at eventide.



THE END.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Redeemed" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home