Part 1 out of 10
A Face Illumined
by E. P. Roe
As may be gathered from the following pages, my title was obtained
a a number of years ago, and the story has since been taking form
and color in my mind. What has become of the beautiful but discordant
face I saw at the concert garden I do not know, but I trust that
that the countenance it suggested, and its changes may not prove
so vague and unsatisfactory as to be indistinct to the reader. It
has looked upon the writer during the past year almost like the face
of a living maiden, and I have felt, in a way that would be hard
to explain, that I have had but little to do with its expressions,
and that forces and influences over which I had no control were
The old garden, and the aged man who grew young within it, are not
creations, but sacred memories.
That the book may tend to ennoble other faces than that of Ida
Mayhew, is the earnest wish of
E. P. Roe.
Cornwall-on-the-Hudson, N. Y.
Chapter I: A Face..............................................11
Chapter II: Ida Mayhew.........................................22
Chapter III: An Artist's Freak.................................35
Chapter IV: A Parthian Arrow...................................42
Chapter V: Spite...............................................51
Chapter VI: Reckless Words and Deeds...........................60
Chapter VII: Another Feminine Problem..........................71
Chapter VIII: Glimpses of Tragedy..............................85
Chapter IX: Unexpectedly Thrown Together.......................96
Chapter X: Phrases too Suggestive.............................108
Chapter XI: A "Tableau Vivant"................................118
Chapter XII: Miss Mayhew is Puzzled...........................126
Chapter XIII: Nature's Broken Promise.........................137
Chapter XIV: A Revelation.....................................145
Chapter XV: Contrasts.........................................159
Chapter XVI: Out Among Shadows................................172
Chapter XVII: New Forces Developing...........................184
Chapter XVIII: Love Put to Work...............................195
Chapter XIX: Man's Highest Honor..............................203
Chapter XX: A Wretched Secret that Must be Kept...............209
Chapter XXI: A Deliberate Wooer...............................216
Chapter XXII: A Vain Wish.....................................225
Chapter XXIII: Jennie Burton's Remedies.......................232
Chapter XXIV: A Hateful, Wretched Life........................239
Chapter XXV: Half-Truths......................................246
Chapter XXVI: Sunday Table-Talk...............................251
Chapter XXVII: A Family Group.................................262
Chapter XXVIII: Rather Volcanic...............................268
Chapter XXIX: Evil Lives Cast Dark Shadows....................278
Chapter XXX: The Deliberate Wooer Speaks First................284
Chapter XXXI: An Emblem.......................................293
Chapter XXXII: The Dangers of Despair.........................303
Chapter XXXIII: "Hope Dies Hard"..............................311
Chapter XXXIV: Puzzled........................................324
Chapter XXXV: Desperately Wounded.............................335
Chapter XXXVI: Temptation's Voice.............................350
Chapter XXXVII: Voices of Nature..............................360
Chapter XXXVIII: A Good Man Speaks............................369
Chapter XXXIX: Van Berg's Escape..............................387
Chapter XL: Van Berg's Conclusions............................397
Chapter XLI: The Protestant Confessional......................403
Chapter XLII: The Corner-Stone of Character...................424
Chapter XLIII: A "Heavenly Mystery"...........................435
Chapter XLIV: "The Garden of Eden"............................443
Chapter XLV: Problems Beyond Art..............................470
Chapter XLVI: A Resolute Philosopher..........................486
Chapter XLVII: The Concert Garden Again.......................500
Chapter XLVIII: Ida's Temptation..............................518
Chapter XLIX: The Blind God...................................538
Chapter L: Swept Away.........................................555
Chapter LI: From Deep Experience..............................569
Chapter LII: An Illumined Face................................589
Chapter LIII: A Night's Vigil.................................601
Chapter LIV: Life and Trust...................................615
Chapter 1. A Face.
Although the sun was approaching the horizon, its slanting
rays found a young artist still bending over his easel. That his
shoulders are broad is apparent at a glance; that upon them is placed
a shapely head, well thatched with crisp black hair, is also seen
at once; that the head is not an empty one is proved by the picture
on the easel, which is sufficiently advanced to show correct and
spirited drawing. A brain that can direct the hand how to do one
thing well, is like a general who has occupied a strategic point
which will give him the victory if he follows up his advantage.
A knock at the door is not answered at once by the intent and
preoccupied artist, but its sharp and impatient repetition secures
the rather reluctant invitation,
"Come in," and even as he spoke he bent forward to give another
"Six o'clock, and working still!" cried the intruder. "You will
keep the paint market active, if you achieve nothing else as an
"Heigho! Ik, is that you?" said he of the palette, good-naturedly;
and rising slowly he gave a lingering look at his work, then turned
and greeted his friend with the quiet cordiality of long and familiar
acquaintance. "What a marplot you are with your idle ways!" he
added. "Sit down here and make yourself useful for once by doing
nothing nothing for ten minutes. I am in just the mood and have
just the light for a bit of work which perhaps I can never do as
well again," and the artist returned promptly to his picture.
In greeting his friend he had revealed that he was above middle
height, that he had full black eyes that were not only good for
seeing, but could also, if he chose, give great emphasis to his
words, and at times be even more expressive. A thick mustache
covered his lip, but the rest of his face was cleanly shaven, and
was strong and decided in its outlines rather than handsome.
"They say a woman's work is never done," remarked Ik Stanton, dropping
into the easiest chair in the studio, "and for this reason, were
there no other, your muse is evidently of the feminine persuasion.
I also admit that she is a lady of great antiquity. Indeed I would
place her nearer to the time when 'Adam delved and Eve span' than
to the classic age."
"My dear Ik," responded the artist, "I am often at a loss to know
whether I love or despise you most. If a little of the whirr of
our great grandam's spinning wheel would only get into your brain
the world might hear from you. You are a man of unbounded stomach
and unbounded heart, and so you have won all there is of me except
my head, and that disapproves of you."
"A fig for the world! what good will it do me or it to have it hear
from me? you ambitious fellows are already making such a din that
the poor old world is half ready for Bedlam; and would go stark mad
were it not for us quiet, easy-going people, who have time for a
good dinner and a snack between meals. You've got a genius that's
like a windmill in a trade wind, always in motion; you are worth
more money than I shall ever have, but you are the greatest drudge
in the studio building, and work as many hours as a house-painter."
"When your brain once gets in motion, Ik, fiction will be its natural
product. You must admit that I have not painted many pictures."
"That is one of the things I complain of; I, your bosom friend and
familiar, your, I might add, guardian angel--I, who have so often
saved your life by quenching the flame of your consuming genius
with a hearty dinner, have been able to obtain one picture only
from you, and as one might draw a tooth. Your pictures are like
old maid's children--they must be so perfect that they can't exist
at all. But come, the ten minutes are up. Here's the programme
for the evening--a drive in the Park and a little dinner at a cool
restaurant near Thomas's Garden, and then the concert. That prince
of musical caterers has made a fine selection for to-night, and,
with the cigar stand on one side of us and the orchestra on the
other, we are certain to kill a couple of hours that will die like
"You mention the cigar-stand first."
"Why not? Smoke is more real than empty sound."
"Are you not equally empty, Ik, save after dinner? How have the
preceding hours of this long day been killed?"
"Like boas. They have enfolded me with a weary weight."
"The snakes in your comparison are larger than your pun, and the
pun, rather than yourself, suggests a constrictor's squeeze."
"Come, you are only abusing me to gain time, and you may gain too
much. My horses have more mettle than their master, and may carry
off my trap and groom to parts unknown, while you are wasting
paint and words. You are like the animals at the Park, that are
good-natured only after they are fed. So shut up your old paint
shop, and come along; we will shorten our ride and lengthen our
With mutual chaffing and laughter the young men at last went down
to where a liveried coachman and a pair of handsome bays were in
waiting. Taking the high front seat and gathering up the reins, Ik
Stanton, with his friend Harold Van Berg at his side, bowled away
towards the Park at a rapid pace.
Harold Van Berg was, in truth, something of a paradox. He was an
artist, and yet was rich; he had inherited large wealth, and yet
had formed habits of careful industry. The majority of his young
acquaintances, who had been launched from homes like his own, were
known only as sons of their fathers, and degenerate sons at that.
Van Berg was already winning a place among men on the ground of
what he was and could do himself.
It were hard to say which was the stronger motive, his ambition or
the love of his art; but it seemed certain that between the two,
such talent as he had been endowed with would be developed quite
thoroughly. And he did possess decided talent, if not genius. But
his artistic gift accorded with his character, and was controlled
by judgement, correct taste, and intellectuality rather than by
strong and erratic impulses. His aims were definite and decided
rather than vague and diffusive; but his standards were so high
that, thus far, he had scarcely attempted more than studies that
were like the musician's scales by which he seeks to acquire a
skill in touch that shall enable him to render justly the works of
the great composers.
His family had praised his work unstintedly, and honestly thought
it wonderful; he had also been deluged with that kind of flattery
which relaxes the rules of criticism in favor of the wealthy. Thus
it was not strange that the young fellow, at one time, believed
that he was born to greatness by a kindly decree of fate. But as
his horizon widened he was taught better. His mind, fortunately,
grew faster than his vanity, and as he compared his crude but
promising work with that of mature genius, he was not stricken
with that most helpless phase of blindness--the inability to see
the superiority of others to one's self. Every day, therefore,
of study and observation was now chastening Harold Van Berg and
preparing him to build his future success on the solid ground of
positive merit as compared with that of other and gifted artists.
Van Berg's taste and talent led him to select, as his specialty,
the human form and countenance, and he chiefly delighted in those
faces which were expressive of some striking or subtle characteristic
of the indwelling mind. He would never be content to paint surfaces
correctly, giving to features merely their exact proportions. Whether
the face were historical, ideal, or a portrait, the controlling
trait or traits of the spirit within must shine through, or else
he regarded the picture as scarcely half finished.
A more sincere idolator than Van Berg, in his worship of beauty,
never existed; but it was the beauty of a complete man or a complete
woman. Even in his early youth he had not been so sensuous as to
be captivated by that opaque fragment of a woman--an attractive
form devoid of a mind. Indeed with the exception of a few boyish
follies, his art had been his mistress thus far, and it was beginning
to absorb both heart and brain.
With what a quiet pulse--with what a complacent sense of security
we often meet those seemingly trivial events which may change the
whole character of our lives! The ride had been taken, the dinner
enjoyed, and the two friends were seated in the large cool hallway
off the concert garden, where they could smoke without offence. The
unrivalled leader, Thomas, had just lifted his baton--that magic
wand whose graceful yet mysterious motion evokes with equal ease,
seemingly, the thunder of a storm, the song of a bird, the horrid
din of an inferno, or a harmony so pure and lofty as to suggest
heavenly strains. One of Beethoven's exquisite symphonies was to
be rendered, and Van Berg threw away his half-burned cigar, settled
himself in his chair and glanced around with a congratulatory air,
as if to say, "Now we are to have one of those pleasures which
fills the cup of life to overflowing."
Oh, that casual glance! It was one of those things that we might
justly call "little." Could anything have been more trivial,
slight, and apparently inconsequential than this half involuntary
act? Indeed it was too aimless even to have been prompted by a
conscious effort of the will. But this book is one of the least
results of that momentary sweep of the eye. Another was, that Van
Berg did not enjoy the symphony at all, and was soon in a very bad
humor. That casual glance had revealed, not far away, a face that
with his passion for beauty, at once riveted his attention. His
slight start and faint exclamation, caused Ik Stanton to look around
also, and then, with a mischievous and observant twinkle in his
eyes, the bon vivant resumed his cigar, which no symphony could
exorcise from his mouth.
At a table just within the main audience room, there sat a young
lady and gentleman. Even Van berg, who made it his business to
discover and study beauty, was soon compelled to admit to himself
that he had never seen finer features than were possessed by this
fair young stranger. Her nose was straight, her upper lip was
short, and might have been modelled from Cupid's bow; her chin did
not form a perfect oval after the cold and severe Grecian type, but
was slightly firm and prominent, receding with decided yet exquisite
curves to the full white throat. Her cheeks had a transparent
fairness, in which the color came and went instead of lingering
in any conventional place and manner; her hair was too light to be
called brown and too dark to be golden, but was shaded like that on
which the sunlight falls in one of Bougereau's pictures of "Mother
and Child;" and it rippled away from a broad low brow in natural
waves, half hiding the small, shell-like ears.
Van Berg at first though her eyes to be her finest feature, but
he soon regarded them as the worst, and for the same reason, as he
speedily discovered, that the face, each feature of which seemed
perfect, became, after brief study, so unsatisfactory as to cause
positive annoyance. To a passing glance they were large, dark,
beautiful eyes, but they lost steadily under thoughtful scrutiny.
A flashing gem may seem real at first, but as its meretricious rays
are analyzed, they lose their charm because revealing a stone not
only worthless worse than worthless, since it mocks us with a false
resemblance, thus raising hopes only to disappoint them. The other
features remained beautiful and satisfactory to Van Berg's furtive
observation because further removed from the informing mind, and
therefore more justly capable of admiration upon their own merits;
but the eyes are too near akin to the animating spirit not to suffer
from the relationship, should the spirit be essentially defective.
That the beautiful face was but a transparent mask of a deformed,
dwarfed, contemptible little soul was speedily made evident. The
cream and a silly flirtation with her empty-headed attendant--a
pallid youth who parted his hair like a girl and had not other parts
worth naming--absorbed her wholly, and the exquisite symphony was
no more to her than an annoying din which made it difficult to hear
her companion's compliments that were as sweet, heavy, and stale
as Mailard's chocolates, left a year on the shelves. Their mutual
giggle and chatter at last became so obtrusive that an old and
music-loving German turned his broad face towards them, and hissed
out the word "Hist!" with such vindictive force as to suggest that
all the winds had suddenly broken lose from the cave of Aeolus.
Ik Stanton, who had been watching Van Berg's perturbed, lowering
face, and the weak comedy at the adjacent table, was obviously much
amused, although he took pains to appear blind to it all and kept
his back, as far as possible, towards the young lady.
The German's "hist" had been so fierce as to be almost like a rap
from a policeman's club, and there was an enforced and temporary
suspension of the inane chatter. The attendant youth tried
to assume the incensed and threatening look with which an ancient
gallant would have laid his hand on the hilt of his sword. But
some animals and men only become absurd when they try to appear
formidable. It was ludicrous to see him weakly frowning at the
sturdy Teuton who had already forgotten his existence as completely
as he might that of a buzzing mosquito he had exterminated with a
They young girl's face grew even less satisfactory as it became
more quiet. A muddy pool, rippled by a breeze, will sparkle quite
brilliantly while in motion; but when quiet it is seen the more
plainly to be only a shallow pool. At first the beautiful features
expressed only petty resentment at the public rebuke. As this
faintly lurid light faded out and left the countenance in its normal
state it became more heavy and earthy in its expression than Van
Berg would have deemed possible, and it ever remained a mystery to
him how features so delicate, beautiful, and essentially feminine
could combine to show so clearly that the indwelling nature
was largely alloyed with clay. there was not that dewy freshness
in the fair young face which one might expect to see in the early
morning of existence. The Lord from heaven breathed the breath of
life into the first fair woman; but this girl might seem to have
been the natural product of evolution, and her soul to be as truly
of the earth as her body.
It was evident that she had been made familiar too early and
thoroughly with conventional and fashionable society, and, although
this fraction of the world is seldom without its gloves, its touch
nevertheless had soiled her nature. Her face did not express any
active or malignant principle of evil; but a close observer, like
Van Berg, in whom the man was in the ascendant over the animal, could
detect the absence of the serene, maidenly purity of expression,
characteristic of those girls who have obtained their ideas of life
from good mothers, rather than from French novels, French plays,
and a phase of society that borrows its inspiration from fashionable
With the ending of the symphony the chatting and flirting at the
table began again, to Van Berg's increased disgust. Indeed, he
was so irritated that he could no longer control himself, and rose
abruptly, saying to his companion:
"Come, let us walk outside."
His sudden movement drew the young lady's attention, but by this
time he had only his broad shoulders turned towards her. She saw
Ik Stanton looking at her, however, with a face full of mischief,
and she recognized him with a nod and a smile.
He, with the familiarity that indicated relationship, but with a
motion too slight to be noticed by others, threw her a kiss from
the tips of his fingers, as one might toss a sugar-plum to a child,
and then followed his friend.
Chapter II. Ida Mayhew.
What is the matter, Van? You remind me of a certain horned beast
that has seen a red flag," said Ik Stanton, linking his arm in that
of Van Berg's.
"An apt illustration. I have been baited and irritated for the
last twenty minutes."
"I thought you enjoyed Beethoven's music, and surely Thomas rendered
it divinely to-night."
"That is one of the chief of my grievances. I haven't been able
to hear a note," was the wrathful response.
"That's strange," said Stanton with mock gravity. "Were I not
afraid you would take it amiss I would hint that your ears are of
goodly size. How comes it that they have so suddenly failed you?"
"Having seen your dinner you have no eyes for anything else. If
you had, you would have seen a face near us."
"I saw a score of faces near us. A German had one with the area
of an acre."
"Was he the one who said, 'hist,' like a blast from the North?"
"From a porpoise rather."
"Did you observe the girl towards whom his gusty rebuke was directed?"
"Yes, an inoffensive young lady."
"Inoffensive, indeed!" interrupted Van Berg. "She has put me into
"You do seem quite ablaze. Well, you are not the first one that
she has put there. But really, Van, I did not know that you were
"If you had any of the instincts of an artist you would know that
I am inflamed with no gentler feeling than anger."
"Why! what has the poor child done to you?"
"She is not a child. She knows too much about some things."
"I've no doubt she is better than either you or I," said Stanton,
"That fact would be far from proving her a saint."
"What the dickens makes you so vindictive against the girl?"
"Because she has the features of an angel and the face of a fool.
What business has a woman to mock and disappoint one so! When I
first saw her I thought I had discovered a prize--a new revelation
of beauty; but a moment later she looked so ineffably silly that
I felt as if I had bitten into an apple of Sodom. Of course the
girl is nothing to me. I never saw her before and hope I may never
see her again; but her features were so perfect that I could not
help looking at them, and the more I looked the more annoyed I became
to find that, instead of being blended together into a divine face
by the mind within, they were the reluctant slaves of as picayune
a soul as ever maintained its microscopic existence in a human
body. It is exasperating to think what that face might be, and
to see what it is. How can nature make such absurd blunders? The
idea of building so fair a temple for such an ugly little divinity!"
"I thought you artists were satisfied with flesh and blood women,
if only put together in a way pleasing to your fastidious eyes."
"If nature had designed that women should consist only of flesh
and blood women, if only put together in a way pleasing to your
"If nature had designed that women should consist only of flesh and
blood, one would have to be content; but no one save the 'unspeakable
Turk,' believes in such a woman, or wants her. Who admires such a
fragment of a woman save the man that is as yet undeveloped beyond
the animal? My mother is my friend, my companion, my inspiration.
The idea of yonder silly creature being the companion of a MAN."
"Good evening, Coz," said a voice that was a trifle shrill and loud
for a public place, and looking up, the friends saw the subject
of their conversation, who, with her spindling attendant was also
taking a promenade.
Stanton raised his hat with a smile, while Van Berg touched his
"I wish to speak with you," she said in passing.
"I will join you soon," Stanton answered.
"So this lady is your cousin?" remarked Van Berg.
"She is," said Stanton laughing.
"You will do me the justice to remember that I spoke in ignorance
of the fact. If I were you I would give her some cousinly advice."
"Bless you! I have, but it's like pouring water on a duck's
back. For one sensible word I can say to her she gets a thousand
compliments from rich and empty-headed young fools, like the one
now with her, who will eventually be worth half a million in his
own name. I was interested to see how her face would strike you,
and I imagine that your estimate has hit pretty close upon the
truth, for in my judgment she is the prettiest and silliest girl in
New York. She has recently returned from a year's absence abroad,
and I was in hopes that she would find something to remember besides
her own handsome face, but I imagine she has seen little else than
it and the admiring glances which everywhere follow her. Take us
as we average, Van, Mr. Darwin has not go us very far along yet,
and if the face of a woman suits us we are apt to stare at it
as far as such politeness as we possess permits, without giving
much thought to her intellectual endowments. When it comes to
companionship, however, I agree with you. Heaven help the man who
is tied to such a woman for life. Still, in the fashionable crowd
my cousin trains with, this makes little difference. The husband
goes his way and the wife hers, and they are not long in getting
a good ways apart. But come, let me introduce you, I have always
thought the little fool had some fine gold mingled with her dross,
and you are such a skilful analyst that perhaps you will discover
"No, I thank you," said Van Berg, with a slight expression of
disgust. "I could not speak civilly to a lady that I had just seen
giggling and flirting through one of Beethoven's finest symphonies."
"Well well," said Stanton laughing, "I am rather glad to find one
man who is not drawn to her pretty face like a moth to a candle.
I will join you again by and by."
Van Berg sat down in one of the little stalls that stood open to
the main promenade, and saw his friend thread his way among the
moving figures, and address his cousin. As she turned to speak
with Stanton, the artist received again that vivid impression of
beauty, which her face ever caused before time was given for closer
scrutiny. Indeed from his somewhat distant point of observation,
and in the less searching light, the fatal flaw could scarcely be
detected. Her affected tones and silly words could not be heard,
and he saw only dark lustrous eyes lighting up features that were
almost a revelation even to him with his artistic familiarity with
"If I could always keep her at about that distance," he muttered,
"and arrange the lights and shadows in which to view her face, I
could not ask for a better study, for she would give me a basis of
perfect beauty, and I could add any expression of characteristic
that I desired." And now he feasted his eyes as a compensation,
in part, for the annoyance she had caused him in the glare of the
He soon saw a frown lower upon her hitherto laughing face like the
shadow of a passing cloud, and it was evident that something had
been said that was not agreeable to her vanity.
A moment or two after Stanton had joined the young lady her escort
for the evening had excused himself for a brief time, and had left
the cousins together. She had then asked, "I say, Ik, who was that
gentleman you were talking with?"
"He's an old friend of mine."
"He's not an OLD friend of any one. He is young and quite good-looking,
or rather he has a certain 'distingue' air that makes one look at
him twice. Who is he?"
"He is an artist, and if he lives and works as he is now doing,
through an ordinary lifetime, he will indeed by distinguished. In
fact, he stands high already."
"How nice," she exclaimed.
"He has another characteristic, which you will appreciate far more
than anything he will ever accomplish with his brush--he is very
"Why! he's perfectly splendid. Whoever heard of such a strange,
rare creature! I've flirted with lots of poor artists, but never
with a rich one. Bring him to me, and introduce him at once."
"He is not one that you can flirt with, like the attenuated youth
who has just meandered to the barroom."
"If you had eyes for anything save your own pretty face, and the
public stare, you would have seen that my friend is not a 'creature,'
but a man."
"Come, Cousin Ik," she replied in more natural tones, "too much
of your house is made of glass for you to throw stones. Flirting
and frolicking are as good any day as eating, smoking, and dawdling."
Stanton bit his lip, but retorted, "I don't profess to be a bit
better than you are, Coz; but I at least have the sense to appreciate
those who are my superiors."
"So have I, when I find them; I am beginning to think, however,
that you men are very much alike. All you ask is a pretty face,
for you all think that you have brains enough for two. But bring
your paragon and introduce him, that I may share in your gaping
"You would, indeed, my dear Coz, yawn over his conversation, for
you couldn't understand half of it. I think we had better remain
where we are till your shadow returns with his eyes and nose
slightly inflamed. He is aware of at least one method of becoming
a spirited youth, it seems."
"A man who is worth half a million is usually regarded as rather
substantial," she retorted.
"Yes, but in this case the money-bags outweigh the man too
ridiculously. For heaven's sake, Coz, do not make a spectacle of
yourself by marrying this attenuation, or society will assert there
was a regularly drawn bill of sale."
"I assure you that I do not intend to put myself under any man's
thumb for a long time to come. I am having too good a time; and
that reminds me that I would enjoy meeting your friend much more
than listening to your cynical speeches. Did I not know that you
were like my little King Charles--all bark rather than bite--I
wouldn't stand them; and I won't any longer, to-night. So go and
bring your great embryo artist, or he will become one of the old
masters before I see him."
"I fear I must give you a wee bit of bite this time. I have offered
to introduce him and he declines the honor."
"How is that?" she asked, flushing with anger.
"I will quote his words exactly, and then you can interpret them
as you think best. He said, 'I could not speak civilly to a lady
that I had just seen giggling and flirting through one of Beethoven's
The young girl's face looked anything but amiable in response to
this speech; but, after a moment, she tossed her head, and replied:
"'N'importe'--there are plenty who can use not only civil words
but complimentary ones."
"Yes, and the mischief of it is that you will listen to them and
to no others. What sort of muscle can one make who lives only on
"They agree with me better than the vinegar drops you and your
unmannerly friend delight in. I don't believe he ever painted
anything better than a wooden squaw for one of your beloved
cigar-shops--welcome back Mr. Minty. You have been away an
unconscionably long time."
"Thanks for the compliment of being missed. I have tried to make
amends by ordering a 'petit souper' for three, for I was sure your
cousin would join us. It will be brought to one of yonder stalls,
where, while we enjoy it, we can both see and hear."
Surmising that the viands would consist of the choicest delicacies
of the season, Stanton readily accepted the invitation, and it so
happened that the cloth was laid for the party in the stall next to
that in which Van Berg was quietly enjoying a cigar and a frugal glass
of lager. They took their places quite unaware of his proximity,
and he listened with considerable interest to the tones and words
of the fair stranger who had so unexpectedly taken possession of
his thoughts. Were it not for a slight shrillness and loudness at
times, and the fashionable affectation of the day, her voice would
have been sweet and girlish enough. As it was, it suggested an
instrument tuned to a false key and consequently discordant with
all true and womanly harmonies. Her conversation with young Minty
was as insipid as himself, but occasionally Stanton's cynical banter
evoked something like repartee and wit.
In the course of her talk she said: "By the way, Ik, mother and
I start for the country next week. We are to spend the summer at
the Lake House, which is up the Hudson somewhere--you know where
better than I. If you will bring your bays and a light wagon
I shall be very glad to see you there; otherwise I shall welcome
you--well--as my cousin."
"If I come I will surely bring my bays, and possibly may invite
you to drive with me."
"Oh, I will save you all trouble in that respect by inviting myself,
when so inclined."
The orchestra was now about to give a selection that Van Berg wished
to hear to better advantage than he could in his present position;
therefore, unobserved by the party on the other side of the thin
partition, he returned to his old seat in the main hallway. Not
very long after, Stanton, with his cousin and Mr. Minty, entered
from the promenade, and again Van Berg received the same vivid
impression of beauty, and, with many others, could not withdraw his
eyes from the exquisite features that were slightly flushed with
champagne and excitement. But, as before, this impression passed
quickly, and the face again became as exasperating to the artist
as the visage of the Venus of Milo would be should some vandal hand
pencil upon it a leer or a smirk. A heavy frown was gathering upon
his brow when the young lady, happening to turn suddenly, caught
and fully recognized his lowering expression. It accorded only
too well with her cousin's words in regard to Van Berg's estimate
of herself, and greatly increased her resentment towards the one who
had already wounded her vanity--the most vulnerable and sensitive
trait in her character. The flush that deepened so suddenly upon
her face was unmistakably that of anger. She promptly turned her
back upon her critic, nor did she look towards him again until
the close of the evening. That his words and manner rankled in
her memory, however, was proved by a slightly preoccupied manner,
followed by fits of gayety not altogether natural, and chiefly by
the fact that she could not leave the place without a swift glance
at the disturbing cause of her wonted self-approval. But Van Berg
took pains to manifest his indifference by standing with his back
towards her when she knew that he must be aware of her departure,
from her slightly ostentatious leave-taking of her cousin, in which,
of course, the spoiled beauty had no other object than to attract
attention to herself.
As Van Berg, with his friend, was passing out a few minutes later,
he asked rather abruptly, showing that he also was not so indifferent
as he had pretended to be:
"What is your cousin's name, Stanton?"
"Her name is as pretty as herself--Ida Mayhew, and it is worse than
a disquieting ghost in a good many heads and hearts that I know
of. Indeed its owner has robbed men that I thought sensible, not
only of their peace, but, I should say, of their wits also. I had
one friend of whom I thought a great deal, and it was pitiable to
see the abject state to which the heartless little minx reduced
him. I am glad to find that her witchery has no spell for you, and
that you detect just what she is through her disguise of beauty.
'Entre nous,' Van, I will tell you a secret. I was once over ears
in love with her myself, but my cousinly relationship enabled me
to see her so often and intimately that she cured me of my folly
on homeopathic principles. 'Similia similibus curantur.' Even
the blindness of love could not fail to discover that when one
subtracted vanity, coquetry, and her striking external beauty from
Ida Mayhew, but little was left, and that little not a heavenly
compound. Those who know her least, and who add to her beauty
many ideal perfections, are the ones that rave about her most. I
doubt whether she ever had a heart; if so, it was frittered away
long ago in her numberless flirtations. But with all her folly
she has ever had the sense to keep within the conventionalities of
her own fashionable 'coterie,' which is the only world she knows
anything about, and whose unwritten laws are her only creed and
religion. Her disappointed suitors can justly charge her with
cruelty, silliness, ignorance, and immeasurable vanity, but never
with indiscretion. She has to perfection the American girl's
ability to take care of herself, and no man will see twice to take
a liberty beyond that which etiquette permits. I have now given
you in brief the true character of Ida Mayhew. It is no secret,
for all who come to know her well, arrive at the same opinion. When
I saw you had observed her this evening for the first time, I was
quite interested in watching the impression she would make upon
you, and I am very glad that your judgment has been both good and
prompt; for I slightly feared that your love of beauty might make
you blind to everything else."
Stanton's concluding words were as incense to Van Berg, for he
prided himself in no slight degree on his even pulse and sensible
heart, that, thus far, had given him so little trouble; and he therefore
replied, with a certain tinge of complacency and consciousness of
"You know me well enough, Ik, to be aware that I am becoming almost
a monomaniac in my art. A woman's face is to me little more than
a picture which I analyze from an artistic stand-point. A MERELY
PRETTY face is like a line of verse of musical rhythm, but without
sense or meaning. This is bad and provoking enough; but when
the most exquisite features give expression only to some of the
meanest and unworthiest qualities that can infest a woman's soul,
one is exasperated almost beyond endurance. At least I am, for I
am offended in my strongest instincts. Think of employing stately
Homeric words and measure in describing a belle's toilet table with
its rouge-pots, false hair, and other abominations! Much worse is
it, in my estimation, that the features of a goddess should tell
us only of such moral vermin as vanity, silliness, and the egotism
of a poor little self that thinks of nothing, and knows nothing
save its own small cravings. Pardon me, Ik; I am not speaking of
your cousin but in the abstract. In regard to that young lady,
as you saw, I was very much struck with the face. Indeed, to tell
the honest truth, I never saw so much beauty spoiled before, and
the fact has put me in so bad a humor that you, no doubt, are glad
I have reached my corner and so must say good-night."
"Ida Mayhew can realize all such abstractions," muttered Ik Stanton,
as he walked on alone.
The reader will be apt to surmise, however, that some resentment,
resulting from his former and unrequited sentiment towards the
girl, gave an unjust bias to his judgement.
Chapter III. An Artist's Freak.
Van Berg's night-key admitted him to a beautiful home, which he
now had wholly to himself, since his parents and sister had sailed
for Europe early in the spring, intending to spend the summer
abroad. The young man had already travelled and studied for years
in the lands naturally attractive to an artist, and it was now his
purpose to familiarize himself more thoroughly with the scenery of
his own country.
On reaching his own apartment he took down a prosy book, that he
might read himself into that condition of drowsiness which would
render sleep possible; but sleep would not come, and the sentences
were like the passers-by in the street, whom we see but do not note,
and for whose coming and going we know not the reasons. Between
himself and the page he saw continually the exquisite features and
the exasperating face of Ida Mayhew. At last he threw aside the
book, lighted a cigar, and gave himself up to the reveries to which
this beautiful, but discordant visage so strongly predisposed him.
Its perfection in one respect, its strongly marked imperfection
in another, both appealed equally to his artistic and thoughtful
mind. At one moment it would appear before him with an ideal
loveliness such as had never blessed the eye of his fancy even;
but while he yet looked the features would distort themselves into
the vivid expression of some contemptible trait, so like what he
had seen in reality, during the evening, that, in uncontrollable
irritation, he would start up and pace the floor.
His uncurbed imagination conjured up all kinds of weird and grotesque
imagery. He found himself commiserating the girl's features as if
they were high-toned captives held in degrading bondage by a spiteful
little monster, that delighted to put them to low and menial uses.
To one of his temperament such beauty as he had just witnessed,
controlled by, and ministering to, some of the meanest and pettiest
of human vices, was like Mary Magdalene when held in thraldom by
A cool and matter-of-fact person could scarcely understand Van
Berg's annoyance and perturbation. If a true artist were compelled
to see before him a portrait that required only a few skillful
touches in order to become a perfect likeness, and yet could not
give those touches, the picture would become a constant vexation;
and the better the picture, the nearer it approached the truth, the
deeper would be the irritation that all should be spoiled through
defects for which there was no necessity.
In the face that persistently haunted him Van Berg saw a beauty
that might fulfil his best ideal; and he also saw just why it did
not and never could, until its defects were remedied. He felt
a sense of personal loss that he should have discovered a gem so
nearly perfect and yet marred by so fatal a flaw.
The next day it was still the same. The face of Ida Mayhew interposed
itself before everything that he sought to do or see. Whether it
were true or not, it appeared to him that in all his wanderings and
observations he had never seen features so capable of fulfilling
his highest conception of beauty did they but express the higher
qualities and emotions of the soul. He also felt that never
before had he seen a face that would seem to him so hideous in its
He threw down his brush and palette in despair and again gave himself
up to his fancies. He then sketched in outline the beautiful face
as expressing joy, hope, courage, thought or love, but was provoked
to find that he ever obtained the best likeness when portraying
the vanity, silliness, or petulance which had been the only
characteristics he had seen.
He now grew metaphysical and tried to analyze the girl's mind.
He sought to grope mentally his way back into the recesses of the
soul, which had looked, acted, and spoken the previous evening.
A strange little place he imagined it, and oddly furnished. It
occurred to him that it bore a resemblance to her dressing room,
and was full of queer feminine mysteries and artificial ideas that
had been created by conventional society rather than inspired by
He asked himself, "Can it be that here is a character in which the
elements of a true and good woman do not exist? Has she no heart,
no mind, no conscience worthy of the name? At her age she cannot
have lost these qualities. Have they never been awakened? Do
they exist to that degree that they can be aroused into controlling
activity? I suppose there can be pretty idiots. As people are
born blind or scrofulous, so I suppose others can be born devoid of
heart or conscience, inheriting from a degenerate ancestry sundry
mean and vile propensities in their places. Human nature is
a scale that runs both up and down, and it is astonishing how far
the extremes can be apart."
"How high is it possible for the same individual to rise in this
scale? I imagine we are all prone to judge of people as if they
were finished pictures, and to think that the defects our first
scrutiny discovers will remain for all time. It is in real life
much as in fiction. From first to last a villain is a villain,
as if he had been created one. The heroine is a moss rose-bud by
equal and unchanging necessity. Is this girl a fool, and will she
remain one by any innate compulsion? By Jove! I would like to see
her again in the searching light of day. I would like to follow
her career sufficiently long, to discover whether nature has been
guilty of the grotesque crime of associating inseparably with that
fine form and those exquisite features, a hideous little mind that
must go on intensifying its dwarfed deformity, until death snuffs
it out. If this be true, the beautiful little monster that is
bothering me so suggests a knotty problem to wiser heads than mine."
Somewhat later his musings led him to indulge in a broad laugh.
"Possibly," he said aloud, "she is a modern and fashionable Undine,
and has never yet received a woman's soul. The good Lord deliver
me from trying to awaken it, as did the knight of old in the story,
by swelling the long list of her victims. I can scarcely imagine
a more pitiable and abject creature than a man (once sane and
sensible) in thraldom to such a tantalizing semblance of a woman.
She would no more appreciate his devotion than the jackdaw the
pearl necklace it pecked at.
"I fear my Undine theory won't answer. Stanton says she has no heart,
and her face and manner confirm his words. But now I think of it,
the original Undine lived a long time ago--in the age of primeval
simplicity, when even cool-blooded water nymphs had hearts. One
is induced to think, in our age, that this organ will eventually
disappear with the other characteristics of ancient and undeveloped
man, and that the brain, or what stands for it, will become all in
all. In the first instance the woman's soul came in through the
heart; but I suppose that in the case of a modern Undine it could
enter most readily through the head. I wonder if there is something
like an unawakened mind, sleeping under that broad low brow that
mocks one with its fair intellectual outline. I wonder if it
would be possible to set her thinking, and so eventually render
her capable of receiving a woman's soul. As it is now she seems
to possess only certain disagreeable feminine propensities. One
might engage in such an experiment as a philosopher rather than a
lover; or, what is more to my purpose, as an artist.
"By Jove! I would half like to make the attempt; it would give zest
to one's summer vacation. Well, what is to hinder? Now I think
of it she remarked that she was to spend the season at the Lake
House, not far from the Hudson, a place well suited to my purposes.
There are the wild highlands on one side, and a soft pastoral country
on the other. I could there find abundant opportunity for varied
studies in scenery, and at the same time beguile my idle hours at
the hotel with this face of marvellous capabilities and possibilities.
The features already exist, and would be beautiful if the girl were
dead, and they could be no longer distorted by the small vices of
the spirit back of them. They might become transcendently beautiful,
could she in very truth receive the soul of a true and thoughtful
woman--a soul such as makes my mother beautiful in her plain old
"I'm inclined to follow this odd fancy. That girl is a 'rara
avis' such as has never flown across my path before. I shall have
a quarrel with nature all my life if I must believe she can fashion
a face capable of meaning so much and yet actually meaning so
little, and that little disgusting."
After a few moments of deep thought, he again started to his feet
and commenced pacing his studio.
"Suppose," he soliloquized, "I attempt a novel bit of artistic work
as my summer recreation. Suppose I take the face of this stranger
instead of a piece of canvas and try to illumine it with thought,
with womanly character and intelligence. If I fail, as I probably
shall, no harm will be done. If her silliness and vanity are
ingrained and essential parts of her nature, she shall learn that
there is at least one man who can see her as she is, and whose
heart is not wax on which to stamp her pretty and senseless image.
If I only partially succeed, if I discern she has a mind, but
so feeble that it can only half reclaim her from her weakness and
folly, still something will be accomplished. Her features are so
beautiful, that should they come to express even the glimmerings
of that which is admirable, the face will be in part redeemed.
But if by some happy miracle, as in the instance of the original
Undine, a mind can be awakened that will gradually prepare a place
for the soul of a true woman, I shall accomplish the best work of
my life, even estimated from an artistic point of view. Possibly,
for my reward, she will permit me to paint her portrait as a souvenir
of our summer's acquaintance."
It did not take Van Berg long to complete his arrangements for
leaving town. He wrote a line to his friend Stanton, saying that
he proposed spending a few weeks in the vicinity of the Highlands
on the Hudson, and that he could not say when he would be at his
rooms or at home again. The afternoon of the following day found
him a passenger on a fleet steamboat, and fully bent upon carrying
out his odd artistic freak.
Chapter IV. A Parthian Arrow.
As, in the quiet June evening, Harold Van Berg glided through the
shadows of the Highlands, there came a slight change over his spirit
of philosophical and artistic experiment. The season comported
with his early manhood, and the witching hour and the scenery were
not conducive to cold philosophy. He who prided himself on his
steady pulse and a devotion to art so absorbing that it even prompted
his impulses and gave character to his recreation, was led to feel,
on this occasion, that his mistress was vague and shadowy, and to
half wish for that companionship which the most self-reliant natures
have craved at times, ever since man first felt, and God knew, that
it was "not good for him to be alone." If he could turn from the
beauty of the sun-tipped hills and rocks and the gloaming shadows
to an appreciative and sympathetic face, such as he could at
least imagine the visage of Ida Mayhew might become, would not his
enjoyment of the beauty he saw be doubly enhanced? In his deepest
consciousness he was compelled to admit that it would. He caught
a glimpse of the truth that he would never attain in his highest
manhood until he had allied himself to a womanhood which he should
come to believe supremely true and beautiful.
The ringing of the bell announced his landing, and in the hurry and
bustle of looking after his luggage and obtaining a ticket which he
had forgotten to procure, he speedily became again, in the world's
estimation, and perhaps in his own, a practical, sensible man. An
hour or two's ride among he hills brought him at last to the Lake
House, where he selected a room that had a fine prospect of the
mountains, the far distant river, and the adjacent open country,
engaging it only for a brief time so that he might depart when he
chose, in case the object of his pursuit should not appear, or he
should weary of the effort, or despair of its success.
A few days passed, but the face which had so haunted his fancy
presented no actual appearance. The scenery, however, was beautiful,
the weather so perfect, and he enjoyed his rambles among the hills
and his excursions on the water so thoroughly that he was already
growing slightly forgetful of his purpose and satisfied that he
could enjoy himself a few weeks without the zest of artistically
redeeming the face of Ida Mayhew. But one day, while at dinner,
he overheard some gossip concerning a "great belle" who was to come
that evening, and he at once surmised that it was the fair stranger
he had seen at the concert.
At the time, therefore, of the arrival of the evening stage he
observantly puffed his cigar in a corner of the piazza, and was
soon rewarded by seeing the object of his contemplated experiment
step out of the vehicle, with the airy grace and confidence of one
who regards each new abiding-place as a scene of coming pleasures
and conquests, and who feels sure every glance toward her is one
of admiration. There were eyes, however, that noted disapprovingly
her jaunty self-assurance and self-assertion, and when she met those
eyes her complacency seemed disturbed at once, for she flushed and
promptly turned her back upon them. In fact, from the time she
had first seen Van Berg's frowning face it had been a disagreeable
memory, and now here it was again and frowning still. Although
he sat at a distance from the landing-place, her eyes seemed drawn
towards his as if by some fascination, and she already had the
feeling that whenever he was present she would be conscious of his
cool, critical observation.
Van Berg had scarcely time to note a rather stout and overdressed
person emerge from the stage, how was evidently the young lady's
mother, when Ik Stanton, with his bays and a light country wagon,
dashed up to the main entrance. Stanton was an element in the
artistic problem that Van Berg had not bargained for, and what
influence he would have, friendly or adverse, only time could show.
While Stanton was accompanying his aunt and cousin to the register,
as the gentleman of the party, the young lady said to him:
"That horrid artist friend of yours is here. I wish he hadn't
come. Did you tell him we were coming here?"
"No, 'pon my honor."
"I have believe you did. If so I'll never forgive you, for the
very sight of him spoils everything."
"Come now, Coz, be reasonable. From all the indications I have
seen, Van Berg is the last man to follow you here or anywhere else,
even though he knew of your prospective movements. He is here, as
scores of others are, for his own pleasure. So follow your mother
to your room, smooth your ruffled plumage and come down to supper."
Even Miss Mayhew's egotism could find no fault with so reasonable
an explanation, and she went pouting up the stairway in anything
but a complacent mood.
Stanton stepped out upon the piazza to greet his friend, saying:
"Why, Van, it is an unexpected pleasure to find you here."
"I was equally and quite as agreeably surprised to see you drive
to the door. If you cousin had not come I might have helped you
exercise your bays. I am doing some sketching in the vicinity."
"My cousin shall not keep you from many an idle hour behind the
bays--that is, if you will not carry your antipathy so far as to
cut me on account of my relationship."
"I'm not conscious of any antipathy for Miss Mayhew," replied Van
Berg, with a slight shrug.
"Oh, only indifference! Well, if you will both maintain that
attitude there will be no trouble about the bays or anything else.
I'll smoke with you after supper."
"She evidently has an antipathy for me," mused Van Berg. "Stanton,
no doubt, has told her of my uncomplimentary remarks, and possibly
of the fact that I declined an introduction. That's awkward, for
if I should now ask to be presented to her, she would very naturally
decline, and so we might drift into something as closely resembling
a quarrel as is possible in the case of two people who have never
spoken to each other."
He concluded that it would be best to leave to chance the occasion
which should place them on speaking terms, and tried to persuade
himself that her unpromising attitude towards him was not wholly
unfavorable to his purpose. He never could hope to accomplish
anything without at first piquing her pride and wounding her vanity.
His only fear was that this had been done too effectually, and that
from first to last she would simply detest him.
In his preoccupation he forgot that the supper hour was passing,
but at last started hastily for his room. As he rapidly turned a
sharp corner he nearly ran into two ladies who were coming from an
opposite direction, and looking up saw Mrs. Mayhew and the flushed,
resentful face of her daughter. In spite of himself our even-pulsed
philosopher flushed also, but instantly removing his hat he
"I beg your pardon," and passed on.
As Ida joined her cousin at the supper-table she whispered exultantly:
"He has spoken to me."
"Who has spoken to you?"
"How did that happen?"
"Well, he nearly ran over me--horrid thing! I suppose that's
another of his peculiar ways."
"Did he embrace you?"
"Embrace me! Good heavens, what an escape I have had! So this
too is characteristic of your friend?"
"You said he was a bear. If so, he should have given you a hug on
the first opportunity."
"He didn't have an opportunity, and he never will."
"Poor fellow! It will make him sick if I tell him so. Well, since
it is another case of beauty and the beast, what did the beast
"He said that it was very proper he should say to me after all his
hatefulness. He said, 'I beg your pardon.'"
"And then I suppose you kissed and made up."
"Hush, you horrid thing. I noticed him no more than I would a
chair that I might have stumbled over."
"Thus displaying that sweet trait of yours--Charity. But I thought
it was he that stumbled over you?"
"A musty, miserable pun! It was he, and I'm delighted it so happened,
that the first time he ever spoke to me he had to ask my pardon."
"Well, well! I'm glad it so happened, too, and that the ice is
broken between you, for Van Berg is a good friend of mine, and it
would be confoundedly disagreeable to have you two lowering at each
other across a bloody chasm of dark, revengeful thoughts."
"The ice isn't broken at all. He has begged my pardon as he ought
to do a hundred times; but I haven't granted it, and I never will.
What's more, I'll never speak to him in all my life; never, never!"
"Swear it by the 'inconstant moon'!"
"Hush, here he comes. Ah, 'peste!' his table is right opposite
"Who is that tall and rather distinguished-looking gentleman
that just entered?" asked Mrs. Mayhew, suddenly emerging from a
pre-occupation with her supper which a good appetite had induced.
"He IS distinguished, or will be. He's a particular friend of
Ida's, and is as rich as Croesus."
"Three items in his favor," said Mrs. Mayhew complacently; "but Ida
has so many friends, or beaux, rather, that I can't keep track of
them. Her friends speedily become furnace-like lovers, or else
escape for their lives into the dim and remote region of mere bowing
acquaintanceship. I once tried to keep a list of the various and
variegated gentlemen with red whiskers and black whiskers, with
whiskers sandy, brown, and occasionally almost white, but borrowing
a golden hue from their purses, that appeared and disappeared so
rapidly, as to almost make me dizzy. I was about as bewildered as
the poor Indian who sought to take the census of London by notching
a stick for every passer-by he met. And now before we are through
supper on the first evening of our arrival, another appears, who
is evidently an eligible 'parti' and twice as good as the minx
deserves; but in a few days he, too, will vanish into thin air,
and another and different style of man will take his place. Mark
my words, Ida, you will be through the woods before long, and I
expect you will take up with the crookedest of crooked sticks on
the farther side," and the voluble Mrs. Mayhew resumed her supper
with a zest which this dismal prospect did not by any means impair.
"If I were in search of a crabbed, crooked stick, I would not have
to look farther than yonder table," said the young lady, petulantly.
"What you suppose about that dabbler in paint is about as far from
the truth as your sketch of those who are my friends. That man
never was my friend, and never shall be. I don't want you to get
acquainted with him or speak to him. You must not introduce him
to me, for if you do, I shall be rude to him."
"Hoity-toity! what's the matter?"
"I don't like him. Only Ik thinks he's wonderful. He has probably
blinded our cousin to his faults by painting a flattering likeness
of the vain youth here."
"But in suggesting another portrait that was not altogether pleasing,
he sinned beyond hope," whispered Stanton.
Ida bit her lip and frowned, recalling the obnoxious artist's portrait
of herself as giggling and flirting through one of Beethoven's
symphonies; and she said spitefully:
"He can never hope for anything from me."
"Poor, hopeless wretch!" groaned Stanton. "How can he sip his tea
yonder so complacently oblivious of his doom?"
"Mother, I'm in earnest," resumed the daughter. "I have reasons
for disliking that man, and I do not wish the annoyance of his
"Well, well," said Mrs. Mayhew; "as long as the wind blows from
that cool quarter, we can keep cool till it changes. If I mistake
not, he is the same gentleman who met us in the corridor. I'm sure
he has fine manners."
"If it is fine manners in a man to nearly run over two ladies, he
is perfect. But I am sick of hearing about him, and especially
of seeing him. I insist, Ik, that you have our table changed to
yonder corner, and then arrange it so that I can sit with my back
"I am your Caliban, but would hint, my amiable Coz, that you should
not bite off your own pretty nose in spite. Must all your kin join
in this bitter feud? May I not smoke with my ancient familiar?"
"Oh, be off, and if you and your friend disappear like your cigars,
the world will survive."
"I fear it is because my friend will never dissolve in sighs that
you are so willing he should end in smoke."
Having winged this Parthian arrow over his shoulder, Stanton strolled
out on the piazza whither Van Berg had preceded him.
Chapter V. Spite.
Miss Mayhew apparently had not given a single glance to the artist,
as he sat opposite to her and but a little out of earshot. Indeed,
so well did she simulate unconsciousness of his presence, that
were if not for an occasional glance from Mrs. Mayhew he might have
thought himself unnoticed; but something in that lady's manner, as
caught by occasional glances, led him to suspect that he was the
subject of their conversation.
But Ida's indifference was, in truth, only seeming; for although
she never looked directly at him, she subjected his image, which
was constantly flitting across the retina of her eye, to the closest
scrutiny, and no act or expression of his escaped her. She was
piqued by the fact that he showed no disturbed consciousness of her
presence, and that his glance was occasionally as free and natural
towards her as towards any other guest of the house. His bearing
annoyed her excessively, for it seemed an easy and quiet assertion
of indifference and superiority--two manifestations that were to
her as objectionable as unusual. Neither in looks nor manner did
she appear very agreeable during the brief time she spent in the
public parlors. The guests of the house, even to the ladies who
foresaw an eclipse of their own charms, were compelled to admit
that she was very pretty; but it was a general remark that her face
did not make or leave a pleasant impression.
Van Berg surmised that Stanton's disposition to teaze and banter
would lead him to repeat and, perhaps, distort, anything he might
say concerning the young lady, so he made no reference whatever
to the Mayhews, but took pains to give the impression that he was
deeply interested in the scenery.
"I shall probably be off with my sketch-book before you are up," he
said; "for if I remember correctly, you are up with the lark only
when you have been up over-night."
"You are the greater sinner of the two," yawned Stanton; "for if I
occasionally keep unseasonable hours at night, you do so habitually
in the morning. Either you are not as brilliant as usual this
evening, or else the country air makes me drowsy. Good-night. We
will take a ride to-morrow, and you can sketch five miles of fence
if you find that you cannot resist your mania for work."
Perhaps Stanton HAD found his friend slightly preoccupied, for, in
spite of the constraint he had put upon himself to appear as usual,
this second and closer view of the face which had taken so strong
a hold upon his fancy did not dissipate his first impressions.
Indeed, they were deepened rather, for he saw again and more clearly
the same marvellous capabilities in the features, and also their
exasperating failure to make a beautiful face.
He dreamed over his project some little time after his friend had
retired, and the conclusion of his revery was:
"I must soon make some progress in my experiment or else decamp, for
that girl's contradictory face is a constant incentive to profanity."
After seeing Mrs. Mayhew, however, he felt that justice required
him to admit that the daughter was a natural and logical sequence;
and in the mother he saw an element more hopelessly inartistic and
disheartening than anything in the girl herself; for even if the
latter could be changed, would not the shadow of the stout and
dressy mother ever fall athwart the picture?
Van Berg retired with the feeling that his project of illuminating
a face by awakening a mind that, as yet, had slept, did not promise
Miss Mayhew tried to persuade herself that it was a relief not to
see the critical artist at breakfast, nor to meet him as she strolled
from the parlors to the piazza and thence to the croquet-ground,
where she listlessly declined to take part in a game.
There was, in truth, great need that her mind should be awakened
and her whole nature radically changed, if it were a possible
thing,--a need shown by the fact the fair June morning, with its
fragrance and beauty, could not light up her face with its own
freshness and gladness. The various notes of the birds were only
sounds; the landscape, seen for the first time, was like the map
of Switzerland, that, in the days of her geography lessons, gave
her as vivid an idea of the country as a dry sermon does of heaven.
Although her ears and eyes were so pretty, she was, in the deepest
and truest sense of the word, deaf and blind. The lack of some
petty and congenial excitement made time hang heavily on her hands
and clouded her face with 'ennui.'"
Even her cousin had failed her, for he was down at the stables,
making arrangements for the care of his bays and his carriage. Thus
from very idleness she fell to nursing her small spite against the
man whose voice had made such harsh discord with the honeyed chorus
of flattery to which she was accustomed. She wished that he would
appear, and that in some way she might show how little she cared
for him or his opinion; but as he did not, she at last lounged to
her room and sought to kill a few hours with a novel.
Her wounded pride, however, induced her to dress quite elaborately
for dinner; for she had faith in no better way of asserting her
personality than that afforded by the toilet. She would teach him,
by the admiration she excited in others, how mistaken he had been
in his estimate, and her vanity whispered that even he could not
look upon her beauty for any length of time without being won by
it as so many others had been.
The change of seats having been effected, she scarcely thought it
necessary to turn her back upon him while sitting at such a dim
distance. Indeed she was inclined to regret the change, for now
her toilet and little airs, which she imagined to be so pretty,
would be lost upon him.
It would seem that they were, for Van Berg ate his dinner as quietly,
and chatted as unconcernedly to those about him as if she had no
existence. Never had a man ignored her so completely before, and
she felt that she could never forgive him.
After the event of the day was over, and the guests were circling
and eddying through the halls and parlors and out on the piazza,
Ida still had the annoyance of observing that Van Berg was utterly
oblivious of her as far as she could perceive. He spoke here and
there with the ease and freedom of one familiar with society, and
she saw more eyes following his tall form approvingly than were
turned towards herself. Few gentlemen remained at the house during
the week, and Miss Mayhew was not a favorite with her own sex.
Those who most closely resembled her in character envied rather
than admired her, and those who were better endowed and developed
found fault even with her beauty from a moral point of view, as
Van Berg had on artistic grounds. She consoled herself, however,
with the thought that it was Saturday, and that the evening boat
and trains would bring a number of gentlemen, among whom she told
Stanton, exultantly, that she had "some friends"--moths rather
whose wings were in danger of being singed.
As the afternoon was not sultry, Stanton had said to his friend
that they could enjoy their cigars and a ride at the same time, and
that he would drive around for him in a few minutes. Ida overheard
the remark, and, quietly slipping off to her room, returned with
her hat and shawl. As her cousin approached she hastened down the
steps, past Van Berg, exclaiming:
"Oh, thank you, Ik! How good of you! I was dying for a ride.
Don't trouble yourself. I can get in without aid," and she sprang
lightly into the buggy before her cousin could utter a word.
He turned with a look of comic dismay and deprecation to his friend,
who stood laughing on the steps. Ida, also, could not resist
her inclination to catch a glimpse of the artist's chagrin and
disappointment, but she was provoked beyond measure to find him
acting as if Stanton were the victim rather than himself. As the
sweep of the road again brought them in view of the piazza, this
impression was confirmed by seeing Van Berg stroll carelessly away,
complacently puffing his cigar as if he had already dismissed her
from his mind.
"Really," grumbled Stanton, "I never had beauty and happiness thrust
upon me so unexpectedly before."
"Very well then," retorted Ida; "stop your horses and thrust me
out into the road. I'd rather go back, even if I have to walk."
"Oh, no! there is to be no going back for two hours or more. I
once cured a horse of running away by making him run long after he
wanted to stop."
"You seem to be learning your friend's hateful manners."
"I asked you this morning if you would take a drive, and you
"I changed my mind."
"Very abruptly, indeed, it seemed. Since you took so much touble
to annoy my friend, it's a pity you failed."
"I don't believe I failed. He's probably as cross as you are about
it, only he can keep it to himself."
"Dove-like creatiah! thanks. Will you please drive while I light
"I don't like any one to smoke as near me as you are."
"If your theory in regard to Van Berg is correct, none of us will
enjoy what we like this afternoon. Of course I never smoke without
a lady's permission, but unless quieted by a cigar, I am a very
reckless driver," and he enforced his words by a sharp crack of
the whip, which sent the horses off like the wind.
"Oh, stop them; smoke; do anything hateful you wish, so you don't
break my neck. I will never ride with you again, and I wish I had
never come to this horrid place; and if your sneering painter does
not leave soon, I will."
"I'm afraid Van would survive, and you only suffer from your spite.
But come, since you have so sweetly permitted me to smoke, I'll
make your penance as light as possible, and then we will consider
matters even between us," and away they bowled up breezy hills and
down into shady valleys, Stanton stolidly smoking, and Ida nursing
her petty wrath. Two flitting ghosts hastening to escape from the
light of day, could not have seen less, or have felt less sympathy
with the warm beautiful scenes through which they were passing.
There is no insulation so perfect as that of small, selfish natures
preoccupied with a pique.
When, late in the afternoon, her cousin, with mock politeness, assisted
her to alight at the entrance of the hotel, Ida was compelled to
feel that she had indeed been the chief victim of her own spite.
but, with the usual logic of human nature, she never thought of
blaming herself, and her resentment was chiefly directed against
the man whose every word and glance, although he was but a stranger,
had seemed to possess a power to annoy and wound from the first.
She felt an almost venomous desire to retaliate; but he appeared
invulnerable in his quiet and easy superiority, while she, who
expected, as a matter of course, that all masculine thoughts should
follow her admiringly, had been compelled to see that his critical
eyes had detected that in her which had awakened his contempt.
"I'll teach him this evening, when my gentlemen friends arrive,
how ridiculous are his airs," she muttered, as she went to her room
and sought to enhance her beauty by all the arts of which she was
the mistress. "I'll show him that there are plenty who can see
what he cannot, or will not. Because he is an artist, he need not
think he can face me out of the knowledge of my beauty, the existence
of which I have been assured of by so many eyes and tongues ever
since I can remember."
When she came down to await the arrival of the stages and carriages,
she was indeed radiant with all the beauty of which she was then
capable. Her neck and shoulders, with their exquisite lines and
curves, were more suggestively revealed than hidden by a slight
drapery of gauze-like illusion, and her white rounded arms were
bare. She trod with the light airy grace of youth, and yet with
the assured manner of one who is looking forward to the familiar
experiences of a reigning belle.
Van Berg, from his quiet corner of observation, was compelled to
admit that, seen at her present distance, she almost embodied his
best dreams, and might do so wholly were there less of the fashionable
art of the hour, and more of nature in her appearance. But he knew
well that if she came nearer, and spoke so as to reveal herself,
the fatal defect in her beauty would be as apparent as a black line
running athwart the sculptured face of a Greek goddess. The only
question with him was, did the ominous deformity lie so near the
surface that it could be refined away, or was it ingrained into
the very material of her nature, thus forming an essential part
of herself? He feared that the latter might be true, or that the
remedy was far beyond his skill or power; but every glance he caught
of the girl, as with her mother she paced the farther end of the
piazza, deepened his regret, as an artist, that so much beauty
should be in degrading bondage to a seeming fool.
Chapter VI. Reckless Words and Deeds.
Light carriages now began to wheel rapidly up to the entrance,
and were followed soon by the lumbering and heavily-laden stages.
Joyous greetings and merry repartee made the scene pleasant to
witness even by one who, like Van Berg, had no part in it. Stanton,
who at this moment joined him, drew his special attention to a thin
and under-sized gentleman somewhat past middle age, who mounted the
steps with a tread that was as inelastic as his face was devoid of
"There is poor Uncle Mayhew," remarked the young man indifferently.
"I suppose I must go and speak to him."
"Mr. Mayhew?" said Van Berg, in some surprise. "You have not spoken
of him before. I was not aware that there was any such person in
"You are not to blame for that," replied Stanton with a shrug.
"You might have been one of the friends of the family and scarcely
have learned the fact. Indeed, poor man, he only about half exists,
for he has been so long overshadowed by his fashionable wife and
daughter, that he is but a sickly plant of a man."
Van Berg saw that the greeting received by Mr. Mayhew from his wife
and daughter was very undemonstrative to say the least, and that
then the gentleman quickly disappeared, as if fearing that he might
be in the way.
"From my very limited means of judging," Van Berg remarked, "I
cannot see anything more objectionable in the head of the family
than in the other members."
"Your phrase, 'head of the family,' as applied to Mr. Mayhew, makes
me smile. His name figures at the head of the large family bills,
but scarcely elsewhere with much prominence. You will soon learn,
if you remain here, that Mr. Mayhew imbibes rather more than is
good for him, so I may as well mention the disagreeable fact at
once. But to do the poor man justice, I suppose he drinks to keep
his spirits up to the ordinary level, rather than from any hope
of becoming a little jolly occasionally. Why my aunt married him
I scarcely know; and yet I have often thought that he might be a
very different did she not so quench him by a manner all her own.
As it is, his life seems to consist of toiling and moiling all the
week, and of stolidly and joylessly soaking himself into semi-stupidity
on Sunday. It this wretched state of affairs could be kept secret
I would not mention it even to you, my intimate friend; but, since it
continues no secret wherever they happen to remain for any length
of time, I would rather tell you the exact truth at once, than
permit you to guess at it through distorted rumors. As you artists
occasionally express yourselves concerning pictures, so I suppose
you will think that this family, with all its wealth is quite
lacking in tone."
"Well, Stanton, I must admit that I find myself chiefly inclined
towards the subdued and neutral-tinted Mr. Mayhew. If you have a
chance I wish you would introduce me to him."
"Are you in earnest?"
"Then I'll ask him to smoke with us after supper. Well, Van,
I congratulate you again that your correct and cultivated taste
enabled you to see the fatal flaw in my cousin's beauty. If you
had been bewitched by her, and had insisted on imagining (as so
many others have done) that her faultless features were the reflex
of what she is or could become in mind and character, I might have
had a good deal of trouble with you; for you are a mulish fellow when
you get a purpose in your head. I don't care how badly singed the
average run of moths become. You may see two or three fluttering
around to-night, if you care to look on, but I wish no friend of mine
to make sport, at serious cost to himself, for yonder incorrigible
coquette, if she is my cousin. But after what you have seen and now
know, you would be safe enough, even if predisposed to folly. The
little minx! but I punished her well for her spite this afternoon."
"O most prudent Ulysses! you have indeed filled my ears with wax.
I thank you all the same as if my danger were greater."
"Well, view them all with such charity as you can. I hope you were
not very much annoyed by the loss of your ride. The young lady
will not be in a hurry to play such a trick again. I'll join you
after supper in this your favorite and out-of-the-way corner."
"Was beauty ever environed within and without by such desperately
prosaic and inartistic surroundings?" mused Van Berg. "It glistens
like a lost jewel in an ash-barrel; or, more correctly, it is like
an exquisite flower that nature has perversely made the outcome
of a rank and poisonous vine. Of course the flower is poisonous
also, and as soon as its first delicate bloom is over, will grow
as rank and repulsive as the vine that bears it. Like produces
like; and with such parentage, what hope is there for her? I am
glad no one suspects my absurd project; for every hour convinces
me of its impracticability. The ancient Undine was a myth, and my
modern Undine might be called a white lie, but one that will grow
darker every day. At a distance she presents the semblance of a
very fair woman, but I have been unable to detect a single element
yet that will prevent her from developing into an old and ugly hag,
in spite of all that art and costume can do for her."
After supper Stanton brought Mr. Mayhew to Van Berg's retired
nook, and the artist gave the hand of the weary, listless man such
a cordial pressure as to cause him a slight surprise, but after
satisfying his faint interest by a brief glance, he turned the back
of his chair towards all the gay company, although it contained
his wife and daughter, puffed mechanically at his cigar, and looked
vacantly into space. Before the evening was over, however, Van berg
had drawn from him several quite animated remarks, and secured the
promise that he would join him and Stanton in a ramble immediately
after breakfast the following morning.
Nor had the young man been oblivious of the daughter who now seemed
in her native element. From his dusky point of observation he
caught frequent glimpses of her, now whirling through a waltz in
the parlor, now talking and laughing in a rather pronounced way from
the midst of a group of gentlemen, and again coquettishly stealing
off with one of them through the moonlit walks. Her manner, whether
assumed or real, was that of extravagant gaiety. Occasionally she
seemed to glance towards their obscure corner, but neither she nor
her mother came to seek the man who had been toiling all the week
to maintain their idle luxury.
As Mrs. Mayhew and her daughter were preparing for dinner on the
following day, Mr. Mayhew entered with a brisker step than usual.
"Why, father, where have you been?" Ida asked, surprised by the
fact that he had not been drinking and dozing in his room all the
"I have been shown a glimpse of something that I have not seen for
"Indeed, and what is that?"
"Beauty that seemed beautiful."
"That's a compliment to us," remarked Mrs. Mayhew, acidly.
"I mean the kind of beauty which does one good and makes a man wish
that he were a man."
"Do you mean an unmarried man?" said his wife with a discordant
"Probably your own wishes suggested that speech, madam," replied
the husband, bitterly.
"And pray, where did you find so much beauty?" said Mrs. Mayhew,
ignoring his last remark.
"On a breezy hill-side. It's a kind of beauty, too, that one can
enjoy without paying numberless bills for its enhancement. I refer
to that of the scenery."
"Oh," remarked Mrs. Mayhew, indifferently; "it would have been
more to your credit if you had gone to church instead of tramping
around the fields."
"I think the fields have done more for me than church for you."
"Why so?" was the sharp response.
"They have at least kept me from indulging in one bad habit. I am
"They do not keep you from making ill-natured remarks," said Mrs.
Mayhew, sailing out of the room fully bedizened for the solemnity
"You say you were 'shown' all this beauty," remarked Ida, who was
giving the finishing touches to her toilet before a large mirror,
and by whom the frequent bickerings of her parents were scarcely
noted. "Who officiated as showman?"
"A man who understands the beauties of a landscape so well that he
could make them visible even to my dim eyes, and attractive to my
deadened and besotted nature. I'd give all the world if I could
be young, strong, and hopeful like him, again. It was good of
him--yes, good of him, to try to cheer a stranger with pleasant
thoughts and sights. I suppose you are acquainted with Mr. Van
Berg, since he is a friend of Ik's?"
"No, I'm not," was the sharp reply; "nor do I wish to be."
"Why not?" asked Mr. Mayhew in some surprise.
"It's sufficient that I don't like him."
"He's not your style, I suppose you mean to say?"
"Indeed he is not."
"So much worse for your style, Ida."
She was sweeping petulantly from the room when her father added
with a depth of feeling very unlike his wonted apathy: "O, Ida, it
were better that all three of us had never been born than to live
as we do! Your life and your mother's is froth, and mine is mud.
How I hated it all this bright June morning, as Mr. Van Berg gave
me a glimpse into another and better world!"
"Do you mean to say that Mr. Van Berg presumed to criticise my mode
of life?" Ida asked with a darkening face.
"Oh, no, no! How small and egotistical all your ideas are! He
never mentioned you, and probably never thought of you. He only
took a little pains that a tired and dispirited man might see and
feel the eternal beauty and freshness of nature, as one might give,
in passing, a cup of water to a traveller."
"I don't see what reason you have for feeling and appearing so
forlornly, thus asking for sympathy from strangers, as it were,
and causing it to seem as if we were making a martyr of you. As
for this artist, with his superior airs, I detest him. He never
loses a chance to annoy and mortify me. I've no doubt he hoped
you would come home and tell us, as you have, how much better he
"There, there, quit that kind of talk or I'll be drunk in half
an hour." said her father, harshly. "If you had the heart of a
woman, let alone that of a daughter, you would thank the man who
had unwittingly kept me from making a beast of myself for one day
at least. Go down to your dinner, I'm in no mood for eating."
She went without a word, but with a more severe compunction of
conscience than she had ever felt before in her life. Her father's
face and words smote her with a keen reproach, piercing the thick
armor of her vanity and selfishness. She saw, for a moment, how
unnatural and unlovely she must appear to him, in spite of her
beauty, and the thought crossed her mind:
"Mr. Van Berg despises me because he sees me in the same light.
How I hate his cold, critical eyes!"
Even at his far remove Van Berg could see that she was ill at
ease during the dinner hour. There would be times of forced and
unnatural gayety, followed by a sudden cloud upon the brow and
an abstracted air, as if her thoughts had naught to do with the
chattering group around her. It would also appear that her appetite
was flagging unusually, and once or twice he thought she darted an
angry look towards him.
As if something were burdening her mind, she at last left the table
hastily, before the others were through with their dessert.
As may be surmised, she sought her father's room. Receiving no response
to her knock, she entered and saw at a glance the confirmation of
her fears. Her father sat in an arm-chair with his head upon his
breast. A brandy bottle stood on the table beside him. At the
sound of her step he looked up for a moment with heavy eyes, and
"He ain't of your style, is he? Nor of mine, either. Froth and
Ida gave a sudden stamp of rage and disgust, and whirled from the
Van Berg happened to see her as she descended to the main hall-way,
and her face was so repulsive as to suggest to him the lines from
"In nature there's no blemish, but the mind;
None can be called deformed, but the unkind;
Virtue is beauty; but the beauteous--evil
Are empty trunks, o'er flourished by the devil."
That afternoon and evening her reckless levity and open coquetry
secured unfavorable comment not only from the artist, but from
others far more indifferent, whose attention she half compelled by
a manner that did not suggest spring violets.
Van Berg was disgusted. He was less versed in human nature than
art, and did not recognize in the forced and obtrusive gayety the
effort to stifle the voice of an aroused conscience. Even to her
blunted sense of right it seemed a hateful and disgraceful truth
that a stranger had helped her father towards manhood, an that she
had destroyed the transient and salutary influence. Her complacency
had been disturbed from the time her cousin had repeated Van Berg's
remark, "I could not speak civilly to a lady that I had just seen
giggling and flirting through one of Beethoven's finest symphonies;"
and now, through an unexpected chain of circumstances, she had,
for the first time in her life, reached a point of self-disgust and
self-loathing. Such a moral condition is evil's opportunity when
a disposition towards penitence or reform is either absent or
resisted. The thought, therefore, of her father's drunkenness that
day, and of herself as the immediate cause, made her so wretched and
reckless that she tried to forget her miserable self in excitement,
as he had in lethargy. Even her mother chided her, asking if she
did not "remember the day."
"Indeed, I shall have occasion to remember it," was her ambiguous
answer; "but Mondays in the country are always blue, and I'll do
my repenting then. If I were a good Catholic I'd hunt up a priest
"I'll be your father-confessor to-day," said a black-eyed young
man, twirling his mustache.
"You, Mr. Sibely? You would lead me into more naughtiness than you
would help me out of, twice over. For my confessor I would choose
an ancient man who had had his dinner. What a comfortable belief
it is, to be sure! All one has to do is to buzz one's sins through
a grating (that is like an indefinite number of key-holes) to
a dozing old gentleman inside, and then away with a heart like a
feather, to load up again. I'd bless the man who could convert me
to a Papist."
But she hated the man who had made her feel the need of absolution,
and who seemed an inseparable part of all her disagreeable experiences.
Although he appeared to avoid any locality in which she remained,
she observed his eyes turned towards her more than once before the
day closed, and it exasperated her almost beyond all endurance to
believe that their expression was only that of contempt.
She might have been a little better pleased, perhaps, if she had
known that she made the artist almost as uncomfortable as herself.
Never before had there seemed to him so great a contrast between
her beauty and herself, her features and her face. The latter could
not fail to excite his increased disgust, while the former was so
great that he found himself becoming resolutely bent on redeeming
them from what seemed a horrid profanation. In accordance with
one of his characteristics, the more difficult the project seemed,
the more obstinately fixed became his purpose to discover whether
she had a mind of sufficient calibre to transform her into what she
might be, in contrast with what she was. The more he saw of her
the more his interest as an artist, and, indirectly, as a student
of character, was deepened. If she had no mind worth naming he
would give the problem up to the solution of time, which, however,
promised nothing but a gradual fading away of all beauty, and the
intensifying of inward deformity until fully reproduced in outward
Chapter VII. Another Feminine Problem.
Early on Monday morning, Mr. Mayhew hastened from the breakfast-table
to the stage. His wife and daughter were not down to see him
off, and he seemed desirous of shunning all recognition. With
the exception that that his eyes were heavy and bloodshot from his
debauch, his face had the same dreary, apathetic expression which
Van Berg had noted on his arrival. And so he went back to his
city office, where, fortunately for him, mechanical routine brought
golden rewards, since he was in no state for business enterprise.
From his appearance, Van Berg could not help surmising what had been
his condition the previous day. Indeed Stanton, with a contemptuous
shrug, had the same as said on Sabbath evening, that his uncle had
"dropped into the old slough." Although neither of the young men
knew how great an impetus Ida had given her father towards such
degradation, they both felt that if his wife and daughter had had
the tact to detect and appreciate his better mood, produced by the
morning ramble, they might have sustained him, and given him at
least one day that he could remember without shame and discouragement.
Van Berg found something pathetic in Mr. Mayhew's weary and
disheartened manner. It was like that of a soldier who has suffered
defeat, but who goes on with his routine in a mechanical, spiritless
manner, because there is nothing else to do. He seemed to have no
hope, nor even a thought of retrieving the past and of reasserting
his own manhood. Accustomed as the young artist had ever been to
a household in which affection, allied to high-bred courtesy and
mutual respect, made even homely daily life noble and beautiful,
he could not look on the discordant Mayhew family with the charity,
or the indifference, of those who have seen more of the wrong side
of life. Had there been only poor, besmirched Mr. Mayhew, and
stout, dressy, voluble Mrs. Mayhew, he would never have glanced
towards them the second time; but his artist's eyes had fallen on
the contradictory being that linked them together. Morally and
mentally she seemed one with her parent stock; but her beauty, in
some of its aspects, was so marvellous, that the desire to redeem
it from its hateful and grotesque associations grew stronger every
Instead, therefore, of going off upon solitary rambles, as he had
done hitherto, he mingled more frequently in the amusements of
the guests of the house, with the hope he would thus be brought so
often in contact with the subject of his experiment, that her pique
would wear away sufficiently to permit them to meet on something
like friendly terms.
As far as the other guests were concerned, he had not trouble.
They welcomed him to croquet, to walking and boating excursions,
and to their evening games and promenades. Such of the ladies as
danced were pleased to secure him as a partner. Indeed, from the
dearth of gentlemen during the week, he soon found himself more
in demand than he cared to be, and saw that even the landlord
was beginning to rely upon him to keep up a state of pleasurable
effervescence among his patrons. His languid friend, Stanton, was
not a little surprised, and at last remarked:
"Why, Van, what has come over you? I never saw you in the role of
a society fellow before!"
But his unwonted courtesies seemed wholly in vain. He propitiated
and won all save one, and that one was the sole object of his effort.
While all others smiled, her face remained cold and averted. Indeed
she took such pains to ignore and avoid him, that it was generally
recognized that there was a difference between them, and of course
there was an endless amount of gossiping surmise. As the hostility
seemed wholly on the lady's side, Van Berg appeared to the better
advantage, and Ida was all the more provoked as she recognized the
She now began to wish that she had taken a different course. As
Van Berg pursued his present tactics, her feminine intuition was
not so dull but that she was led to believe he wished to make her
acquaintance. Of course there was, to her mind, but one explanation
of this fact--he was becoming fascinated, like so many others.
"If I were only on speaking and flirting terms," she thought (the
two relations were about synonymous in her estimation), "I might
draw him on to a point which would give me a chance of punishing
him far more than is now possible by sullenly keeping aloof. As
it is, it looks to these people here as if he had jilted me instead
of I him, and that I am sulking over it."
But she had entangled herself in the snarl of her own previous
words and manner. She had charged her mother and cousin to permit
no overtures of peace; and once or twice, when mine host, in his
good-natured, off-hand manner, had sought to introduce them, she
had been so blind and deaf to his purpose as to appear positively
rude. Her repugnance to the artist had become a generally recognized
fact; and she had built up such a barrier that she could not break
it down without asking for more help than was agreeable to her
pride. But she chafed inwardly at her false position, and at the
increasing popularity of the object of her spite.
Even her mother at last formed his acquaintance; and, as the artist
listened to the garrulous lady for half an hour with scarcely an
interruption, she pronounced him one of the most entertaining of
As Mrs. Mayhew was chanting his praises that evening, Ida broke
"Was there ever such a gad-fly as this artist! He pesters me from
morning till night."
"Pesters you! I never saw a lady so severely let alone as you are
by him. Whatever is the cause of your spite it seems to harm only
yourself, and I should judge from your remark that it disturbs you
much more than you would have it appear--certainly far more than
it does him."
There was no soothing balm in these words, as may well be supposed;
and yet the impression grew upon Ida that the artist would be
friendly if he could; and the belief strengthened with him also
that she took far too much pains to manifest what she would have
others think to be mere indifference and dislike, and he intercepted
besides, with increasing frequency, furtive glances towards himself.
So much ice had accumulated between them, however that neither knew
how it was to be broken.