Part 10 out of 10
course! Burleigh says he has not seen or heard a word from him
since early Monday morning when he started off with his sketch-book,
and Burleigh also says he seemed very glum and out of sorts when
he joked him a little. I've been to the landing and depot, and no
one has seen him. Unless Van can give a better account of himself
than I expect, he and I will have a tremendous falling out."
"No, Cousin Ik, you will leave him to himself, for anything like
what you threaten would wound two hearts already sad enough."
"Well, curse it all! I must do something or other, or I'll explode,
I can't sit by and twirl my thumbs while two such women as you
and Miss Burton are in trouble. When a man breaks a girl's heart
I feel like breaking his head."
"Merciful heaven! See--quick--Miss Burton--she's beckoning to
Stanton sprang from the piazza at a bound, and was almost instantly
at Jennie Burton's side, who sank into a seat near, and gasped:
"Do as I bid--no words--a carriage, and a stout man with yourself--take
brandy. Haste, or Mr. Van Berg will die."
"O God! don't say that," Ida sobbed, kneeling at her feet with a
low shuddering cry.
Jennie stooped over and kissed her and said: "Courage, Miss Mayhew,
all will yet be well. Be your brave self, and you can help me save
him. Tell Mr. Burleigh to come here. Have a physician sent for."
Ida almost dragged the bewildered host from his office. Under the
inspiration of hope her motions were lithe and swift as a leopard's.
Within five minutes after Miss Burton's arrival, a carriage containing
herself, Stanton, and two stout men, dashed furiously towards the
ravine in which Van Berg was lying, and a buggy was sent with equal
rapidity for a physician. Then came to poor Ida the awful suspense
and waiting, which is so often woman's part in life's tragedies.
"Oh, can it be," she thought, with thrills of dread and horror,
"that he has attempted my crime?" and she grew sick and faint.
Then she resolutely put the suspicion away from her as unjust to
him. "Will they never return? O God, if they should be too late!"
She stood on the piazza with eyes dilated and strained,
in one direction, caring not what any one saw or surmised; but in
the increasing excitement, as the rumor spread and grew, she was
At last the carriage appeared, and it was driven so slowly and
carefully that it suggested to the poor girl the deliberate and
mournful pace of a funeral procession, when all need for haste is
past forever, and she sprang down the steps in her intense anxiety,
and took some swift steps before she controlled herself. Then
pressing her hand on her side, she sank into the seat which Miss
Burton had occupied a little before.
Jennie Burton waved a handkerchief--that meant life. "Thank God!"
she murmured, and tears of joy rushed into her eyes. She now saw
that Stanton was supporting Van Berg. She sprang up the steps
again, broke through the excited and curious throng on the piazza,
and was back with a strong arm-chair from the office by the time
the carriage stopped at the door.
"That's a sensible girl, Ida," said Stanton, "that's just the thing
to carry him in. Now, Van, rally and do your best a few moments
longer, and you're all right."
At the sound of Ida's name he lifted his head and looked around
till he met her eyes, and then smiled gladly. His smile satisfied
her completely, and she stepped quietly into the background. "He
has not broken his pledge, even in thought," she murmured. "I can
trust him still."
He was carried up the steps and stairs to his room, followed by all
eyes. Ida stole to Jennie Burton, and kept near her as she sought
to quietly gain her room by a side stairs.
"You are faint, Miss Burton," she said gently, "lean on me," and
Jennie did lean on her more and more heavily until she reached her
room, and then her blue eyes closed, and the day she so dreaded
was over, as far as she had consciousness of it. So slight and
fragile had she become that even Ida was able to carry her to her
couch. Her swoon of utter exhaustion was long and deep, and when
she rallied from it there were symptoms which led the physician to
say that she must have absolute quiet and sleep, and he gave her
strong opiates to insure the latter. Jennie only reached out her
hand for Ida and whispered: "Don't leave me," and then passed into
a slumber that seemed like death.
With her old imperious manner Ida silenced all who entered the
room, or motioned them out if they had no business there.
Stanton whispered: "You know I will be within call any moment."
But Ida's reply was: "If you lover her, if you care for me, don't
leave him; make him live." Thus, in restoring rest and patient vigils
the night wore away. The physician found that while Van Berg's
leg was much bruised and wrenched, it had received no permanent
injury; and in regard to Miss Burton he said: "If she wakes quiet
and sane, all danger will be past, I think."
His hopes were fulfilled. With the dawn her deep stupor passed
into a light and broken slumber, in which she tossed, and moaned,
and whispered, as if the light of thought were also streaming into
her darkened mind. At last she opened her eyes and looked at Ida,
who smiled reassuringly. In a few moments the events of the past
day came back to her, and she started up and asked earnestly:
"Mr. Van Berg--is he safe?"
Ida stooped down and kissed her as she replied; "Mr. Van Berg is
rallying fast, and is out of all danger."
Jennie leaned back among her pillows with a smile of deep content,
and closed her eyes. When she opened them again Ida had gone, and
Mrs. Burleigh had taken her place as watcher.
But the need of such care passed speedily. The doctor, after his
morning call, said that the critical moment of danger had gone by.
So it had, but his understanding of Jennie's case was superficial
indeed, and he ascribed to his opiate a virtue that it had never
possessed. The balm that had soothed her wounded spirit was
the thought of saved life and the happiness that might result to
those in whom she was deeply interested. The dreaded anniversary
had passed, and she was profoundly grateful that it had ended in
physical exhaustion rather than in vain and agonized regret. She
readily obeyed the physician's injunction to keep very quiet for
two or three days, for memory during the past few weeks had caused
a fever of mind that was scarcely less wearing than would have
been the disease against which rest was the best safeguard. The
condition in which she found Van Berg suggested some light on the
dark problem of her life, but she only sighed deeply: "I shall
never know in this world why he does not come."
When told how Ida had taken care of her and watched till all danger
was passed, she murmured to herself, "Brave, noble Ida Mayhew! but
I may be able to reward her yet." She needed very little care,
and felt no surprise that Ida now permitted others to render these
attentions, contenting herself with brief but gentle inquiries
concerning her welfare. Jennie only took pains to learn that Ida
would not leave the Lake House till Monday of the following week,
and then rested and waited. She was not sure of Van Berg, and until
she was she would shield Ida as herself. But if it were true, as
she surmised that Van Berg imagined that honor and loyalty bound
him to her, while his heart was disposed to reward the maiden who
had given him hers, she hoped that a little wise diplomacy on her
part might do no harm. She very justly feared that Van Berg's
gratitude to herself would be so strong that he would consider
nothing else, and she also feared that in order to accomplish her
kind intentions towards them, it might become necessary for her
to tell him the sad story of her life--a story which she had never
yet put in words. Therefore she sought to obtain the strength and
tranquility of mind which this effort might tax to the utmost. She
also imagined that if she could only see Ida and Van Berg together
a few times, her course would be clearer.
Van Berg's vital forces had not been drained by weeks of mental
distress, and he rallied rapidly. Stanton took care of him with a
sort of grim faithfulness which his friend appreciated, but neither
of them made any reference to the subject uppermost in their minds.
On the afternoon of the day following his rescue, he was able to
use crutches, and seated in his arm-chair was carried down to the
hotel parlor. The guests thronged around him with congratulations,
and Ida came forward promptly with the others but her manner was
the most undemonstrative and quiet of any who spoke to him. His
earnest look and the pressure of his hand meant so much to her,
however, that she soon retreated to the solitude of her room, and
her smile was almost glad as she murmured:
"Oh, how much better it is to just take God at his word and do
right! If I had yielded to my strong temptation I would not have
won him, for now he is bound to Miss Burton by every motive. But
by doing right I have kept his respect. Thank God for the glance
I have just received, for it is worth far more than any expressions
of dishonorable passion. My conscience is light, if my heart is
In the quiet and friendly courtesy that Van Berg and Ida maintained
towards each other, a casual observer would have seen nothing to
excite remark, and the gossips at the house believed they had been
misled by the facts that the artist had followed Ida to the city,
and returned with her as if by arrangement. They now all agreed
that he could not do less than bestow himself as a reward upon
the "pretty little school ma'am," as some of the tattling genus
persisted in calling Miss Burton. Mr. Mayhew had written that
unexpected business complications had arisen which required his
whole attention, and as he was acting in trust for others he could
not give his time just then to making the change that Ida had
wished, but that he would arrange matters so he could enter on his
vacation the following week, and then would take Ida wherever she
wished to go. He wrote daily, and his letters were sources of
double cheer to Ida, for she read between the lines her father's
deep sympathy and in the lines found increasing proof that he was
a changed man.
Now that events had taken their strange and unexpected turn, she
was not sorry to remain. She had no belief that change of place
would make any difference in her feelings, and she found that her
heart clung strongly to the scenes with which were associated her
recent deep experiences. There was nothing in Van Berg's manner
now that made it embarrassing for her to meet him. While in his
honest effort to keep his pledges, she saw that he apparently gave
the most of his thoughts to Miss Burton, and daily had conveyed
to her room the rarest flowers and fruits he could obtain, sending
to the city for them as well as having the country scoured for
its choicest treasures, she also occasionally caught a glimpse of
the truth that he honored and reverenced her from the depths of
his heart. Although in her sincere diffidence she did not regard
herself as worthy of such esteem, still the poor girl, who had been
so deeply humiliated and discouraged, was comforted and sustained
by his strong and silent homage. She would also be very sorry to
forego her daily visits to Mr. Eltinge.
As Thursday was warm, Van Berg spent the greater part of it
on the cool piazza, for he was now able to move about on crutches
very well. He had no lack of company, but all found him reticent
concerning his accident and the causes which had led to it. The
most persistent gossip in the house learned no more than the bare
facts, and was inclined to believe there was nothing more to learn.
That Stanton was so distant was explained by the fact that he was
an unsuccessful rival. Both Van Berg and Ida puzzled Stanton as
far as he gave them thought, but in his honest loyalty his heart
was in the darkened room in which poor Jennie was resting, more
from her long passionate struggle with a sorrow she could not bury
than from the exhaustion caused by her rescue of Van Berg.
Friday morning happened to be very warm, and Ida did not visit Mr.
Eltinge, but ensconced herself in a distant corner of the piazza
with a book, the pages of which were not turned very regularly.
"I wonder," she thought, "when, if ever, we shall have another
friendly talk. What a strange, deep hush, as it were, has come
after the passionate joy and desperate sorrow and fear of the past
week! It is the type of what my inner life will be. But I must
not complain; thousands of hearts, no doubt, are the burial-places
of as dear a hope as mine; and One is pledged to give me back my
life in some way, and at some time.
"Miss Ida," said a voice that made her start and crimson in spite
of herself, "may I come out and talk with you a little while?" and
she saw that Van Berg was speaking to her through the window blinds
of one of the private parlors.
"Yes," she said hesitatingly, "if you think it is best."
He went around and came openly to her side, bringing a small camp-chair
with him. as he steadied himself against a piazza column in taking
his seat, and leaned his crutches on the railing, her looks were
very sympathetic. With a smile he took on of his crutches in his
hands as he said:
"I have come to these very properly at last, and you must have
seen their significance. It is my spiritual and moral lameness,
however, that now troubles me most, Miss Mayhew. When lying at the
bottom of that ravine, expecting death, I vowed, like most sinners
in similar circumstances, I suppose, that if I ever escaped I
would become a Christian man. I intend to keep the vow if it is
a possible thing. But I make no progress. I prayed then, and I
have prayed and read my Bible since, but everything is forced and
formal, and the thought will come to me continually, that I might
as well pray to Socrates or Plato as to Christ. I wish you could
teach me your faith."
"Mr. Van Berg," replied Ida, with a troubled face, "I'm not wise
enough to guide you in such a matter. I would much rather you
would talk with Mr. Eltinge or some learned, good man."
"I shall be glad to see Mr. Eltinge, but I don't care to go to the
learned man just yet. We might get into an argument, in which of
course I should be worsted, but I fear not convinced. I have never
known anything so real as your faith has seemed, but I can obtain
nothing that in the least corresponds with it. I ask, but receive
no more response than if I spoke to the empty air. Then comes the
strong temptation to relapse into the old materialistic philosophy,
which I had practically accepted, and to believe that religious
experiences are imaginary, or the result of education and
temperament. At the same time I have found this philosophy such a
wretched support, either in life or in the prospect of death, that
I would be glad to throw it away as worthless."
"I fear to speak to you on this subject," she said, "and shall not
for a moment attempt to teach you anything. They say facts are
stubborn things, and I'll tell you a few, which to my simple, homely
common-sense are conclusive. To a man's reason they may count for
little. My religious experiences are not the result of education
or temperament, but are contrary to both; and if they are imaginary,
all my experiences are imaginary. Perhaps I can best tell you what
I mean by an illustration that is a pleasant one to me. There is
a partially finished picture in your studio that I hope to hang
some day in my own sanctum at home. How shall I ever know that I
have that picture? How shall I ever know that you have given it to
me? I shall know it because you keep your promise and send it to
me. I shall have it in my possession, and I shall enjoy it daily.
Are not hope, patience, peace, when the world could give no peace,
as real as your picture? Is not the honest purpose to overcome
a nature that you know is so very faulty, as real a gift as any I
could receive? If the Friend I have found promises me such things,
and at once begins to keep his word, why should I not trust him?
But remember, you must not expect from me very much at first, any
more than did Mr. Eltinge from the little pear-tree he lifted up
and gave a chance to live. Now, with one more thought, my small
cup of theology is emptied. To go back to my illustration: Suppose
some person should say that he had not a picture of Mr. Eltinge;
that would be no proof that I did not have one, or that you had
not given one to me. I don't see, Mr. Van Berg, that the fact that
you have no faith this morning, is anything against the fact that
I and Mr. Eltinge, and so many others do have faith, with good
reasons for it, and are able to say, "I KNOW that my Redeemer
liveth.' The testimony of other people counts for something in
most matters. Why must such men as Mr. Eltinge be set down either
as deceivers or deceived, when they state some of the most certain
facts of their experience?"
"I knew you were the right one to come to," he said, looking at
her so earnestly that her eyes fell before his; "but why is it, do
you think, that I receive no answer?"
"As I told you, my little cup of knowledge is empty, but it seems
to me that in your happy, wonderful rescue you were answered. You
have promised to become a Christian, Mr. Van Berg. You certainly
did not limit your effort to this week. Surely to be a Christian
is worth a lifetime of effort."
"I understand you again," he said with a smile; "you leave me
no other choice than to make a lifetime of effort. But I fear it
will be awfully up-hill work. The Bible seems to me an old-world
book. Many parts take a strong hold on my imagination, and of
course I know its surpassing literary merit; but I don't find in
it much that seems personally applicable or helpful. Do you? I
admit, though, that when I read words this morning to the effect
that 'a brutish man knoweth not, neither doth a fool understand.'
I felt that the good old saint must have had his prophetic eye on
me at the time of writing."
"You are as unjust towards yourself as ever, I see," she said.
"I have found another Psalm that to me meant so much that I have
committed the first part of it to memory. You can understand why
the following words are significant," and in the plaintive tones that
had vibrated so deeply in his heart when she read to Mr. Eltinge,
"I love the Lord because he hath heard my voice and my supplication.
"Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call
upon him as long as I live.
"The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold
upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
"Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee,
deliver my soul.
"The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low and he HELPED
"Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully
"For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears,
and my feet from falling.
"And this is my conclusion, Mr. Van Berg, 'I will walk before the
Lord in the land of the living.' I am going to find plenty of
good, live, wholesome work to do 'in the land of the living,' and
I intend to do it as if I enjoyed it; indeed, I think I shall enjoy
it," and she rose and left him with a genial and cheery smile.
But he sat still and thought long and deeply. At last he muttered
in conclusion: "'By their fruits ye shall know them.' Once more,
God bless Ida Mayhew for all she has been to me!"
When they were gathered at dinner, Jennie Burton walked in and took
her seat in the most quiet and matter of course way possible.
Van Berg laid down his knife and fork and exclaimed: "You have
stolen a march on us. We designed giving you an ovation when you
"Will you please pass me the bread in its place, Mr. Van Berg?" she
replied in her former piquant, mirthful way. "With the appetite
that is coming back to me, one of Mr. Burleigh's good dinners is far
more to my taste than an ovation which I now decline with thanks."
Very pale and slight she certainly had become, but they saw her old
cheery, indomitable spirit once more looked out of her blue eyes
and vibrated in the tones of her voice. With the changes indicated,
she was the same bright little "enigma in brown" that had so
fascinated Van Berg the first day of her arrival, and led him to make
the half-jesting prediction to Stanton that had been so thoroughly
fulfilled. In spite of themselves her irresistible grace, wit,
and humor created continuous and irrepressible merriment at their
table, which Ida seconded with a tact and piquancy but little
inferior to that of Miss Burton herself. Straightforward and
rather slow-witted Stanton rubbed his eyes and vowed between the
first hearty laughs he had known for many a long day that he was
practised upon, and that he intended to have Miss Burton indicted
as a witch, and Ida as an accomplice.
But Jennie Burton could not escape the ovation, for she had won
a secure and large place in the esteem, and in many instances, in
the affections of her summer associates. After dinner, no matter
which way she turned, hands were extended and hearty words spoken,
and while at dinner even the colored waiters grinned approvingly
whenever she looked towards them. Mr. Burleigh finally brought
the congratulations and jollity to a climax by hoisting the flag
and trying to drum "Hail Columbia" on a gong.
"That's his way," said Mrs. Burleigh in an aside to Jennie; "but
would you believe it, the poor man has scarcely eaten or slept
since you have been ill. If it had been any one else but you I'd
But Van Berg knew well that all this geniality was like the ripple
and sparkle that play above deep waters. Occasionally he found
Miss Burton's eyes directed towards himself in a way that caused
him deep anxiety, and he had an uneasy consciousness that she was
reading his innermost thoughts. While he exerted his utmost power
to banish everything from his mind that was not loyal to her, he
made no effort to avoid Ida or say little to her at the table and
during the afternoon, but rather took pains to treat her with frank
and cordial courtesy; however, in spite of himself, he could not
keep out of his eyes at all times the reverence and gratitude with
which his very soul overflowed; for he felt that he owed to Ida,
who had saved his manhood, far more than to Jennie, who had saved
his life only.
Ida also observed Miss Burton's slight and carefully disguised
scrutiny with a fluttering heart. "I suppose he does the best he
can," she thought; "but she'll surely find him out; there is no
use of trying to hide anything from a woman who loves. Well, well,
let her but remain discreetly blind for a little time, and with
her powers of fascination she will win him heart and soul."
Before Jennie slept that night her mind was clear as to her course.
"I think," she murmured, "I understand them both now. His manner
towards Miss Mayhew is certainly not that of a conventional
lover; but as I have seen him look at her twice as if he could say
his prayers to her, I think I'll venture on the only match-making
I ever attempted. But what to do with Mr. Stanton, I don't know.
Poor man! he might as well love a shadow as me, and yet he seems
so simple, honest, and real himself. He is disappointing me daily,
and I have wronged him very much. I thought him a selfish man of
the world, but he persists in offering me a chivalric, unselfish
devotion, for which he asks nothing in return. Alas! I can give
him nothing--nothing compared with what he gives."
"I am going to make my last visit to Mr. Eltinge and the old
garden," said Ida to Van Berg as she passed him on the piazza the
He looked after her so wistfully, and sighed so deeply, that Jennie
Burton, unseen herself, smiled as if she had discovered something
that gave her deep satisfaction.
"Mr. Van Berg," she said a few moments later "can you give me a
little of your valuable time to-day?"
"All of it," he said promptly.
"Thanks. I shall take, then, all I want. Come with me to yonder
shady rustic seat, for I long to be out of doors again; and you
have learned to hobble so gracefully and deftly that you can manage
the journey, I'm sure."
He accompanied her, wondering a little at her words and manner.
When they had reached the seclusion she sought her manner changed,
and she became very grave and earnest, for she felt that it might
be the crisis moment of two lives, and she was not one who could
self-complacently and confidently seek to shape human destiny.
"Mr. Van Berg," she said, "I shall not use any tedious circumlocution,
for your time is precious this morning; more so than you think at
this moment. Nor shall I try to entrap you by guile and feminine
diplomacy; but you made me a very explicit pledge when I found you
last Tuesday morning."
"Yes, Jennie Burton, I am yours, body and soul."
"But how about your heart, Mr. Van Berg?"
"My heart overflows with gratitude to you," he said promptly, but
with rising color; "and as I said when you rescued me, so now I
vow again, I dedicate my life to you. I do not ask you to forget
the past all at once--I do not ask you to forget it at all--but only
to let me aid you in taking the bitterness out of those memories
that now are destroying as sweet and beneficent a life as God ever
gave. I have suspected that you had some unselfish guile in that
last promise you obtained from me, but I shall be loyal to the
promise I intended to make, and which was in my mind; I shall be
loyal to the promise I made you at first, to win you if I could,
and I shall wait till I can."
"What, then, will Ida Mayhew do?" she asked looking him full in
He colored still more deeply, but meeting her searching gaze without
blenching, he said, firmly and quietly: "She will always do what
is right and noble, God bless her!"
Miss Burton appeared a little perplexed and troubled for a moment,
and then said, slowly: "I called you my friend last July, and when
I speak in the mood I was in then I mean all that I say. Friends
should be very frank when the occasion requires, or else they are
but acquaintances. I am going to be very frank with you to-day,
and if I err, charge it to friendship only. Ida Mayhew loves you,
Mr. Van Berg; she has loved you almost from the first; and now that
her life has become so noble and beautiful, I am greatly mistaken
if you do not return her affection. If this be true, what are you
"I HAVE given you, Miss Burton, my truth and loyalty for all coming
time. You may decline them now--you probably will--but you cannot
change my attitude towards you or alter my course. I shall not
attempt to hide anything from you. Indeed, to do so would be vain,
and I have never been intentionally insincere with you." Then he
told her of the freak of fancy that had led him to follow Ida to
the country in the first instance, and much that followed since,
making no reference, however, to her dark purpose against herself.
In conclusion he said: "Of late, for reasons obvious to you, she
has had strong fascinations for me, but above and beyond these
has been her influence on the side of all that's right, manly, and
true. I have never spoken of love to Miss Mayhew. Honor, loyalty,
unbounded gratitude, and deep affection bind me to you, and shall
through life. Please say no more, Miss Jennie, for if any question
was ever settled, this is."
"Then you propose to sacrifice yourself and Miss Mayhew for the
shadowy chance of making me a little happier?"
"I shall not be sacrificed, and Ida Mayhew would justly reject
me with scorn were I disloyal to you. I can give you more love,
Jennie Burton, than I fear you will ever give me, but I shall wait
patiently. When months and years have proved to you the truth of
my words, you may feel differently. Let us leave the subject till
"Oh, Mr. Van Berg, I shall have to tell you after all," she said
burying her face in her hands.
"You need not now," he replied gently. "You have been ill and are
not strong enough for this agitation. You never need to tell me
unless it will make your burden lighter."
"It will make my burden lighter to-day," she said hurriedly. "Pardon
me if I tell my story in the briefest and most prosaic way. You
are the first one that has heard it. It may not seem much to you
and others; but to me it is an awful tragedy, and I sometimes fear
my life may be an eternal condition of suspense and waiting. You
have been very generous in taking me so fully on trust, but now
you shall know all. I am the only daughter of a poor, unworldly
New England clergyman. My mother died before I can remember, and
my father gave to me all the time he could spare from the duties
of a small village parish. He and the beautiful region in which
we lived were my only teachers. One June morning Harrold Fleetwood
came to the parsonage with letters of introduction, saying that his
physician had banished him from books and city life, and he asked
if he could be taken as a lodger for a few weeks. Poor and unworldly
as father was, for my sake he made careful inquiries and learned
that the young man was from one of the best and wealthiest families
of Boston, and bore an unblemished reputation. Then, since we were
so very poor, he yielded to Mr. Fleetwood's wishes, hoping thus to
be able to buy some books, he said, on which our minds could live
during the coming winter.
"To me, Harrold Fleetwood was a very remarkable character. While
he always treated me with kindness and respect, he did not take
much notice of me at first; and I think he found me very diffident,
to say the least. But, as he had overtaxed his eyes, I began to
read to him; and then, as we became better acquainted, he resumed
a habit he had, as I soon learned, of speaking in half-soliloquy
concerning the subjects that occupied his mind. He said that an
invalid sister had indulged him in this habit, and he had tried
to think aloud partly to beguile her weariness. But to me it was
the revelation of the richest and most versatile mind I have ever
known. At last I ventured to show my interest and to ask some
questions, and then he gradually became interested in me for some
"I can understand his reasons," said Van Berg emphatically.
"He did not know at first how much time father had given me and to
what good uses we had put the books we had. Well, I must be brief.
Every day brought us nearer together, until it seemed that we shared
our thoughts in common. I ought not to complain, for perhaps in
few long lives does there come more happiness than was crowded in
those few weeks. It was the happiness of heaven--it was the happiness
of two souls attuned to perfect harmony and ranging together the
richest fields of truth and fancy. Dear old father was blind to
it all, and I had scarcely thought whither the shining tide was
carrying me until last Tuesday five years ago, Mr. Fleetwood said
to me, 'Jennie, our souls were mated in heaven, if any ever were,
and I claim you as the fulfillment of what must have been a Divine
purpose.' I found that my heart echoed every word he said.
"Then he appeared troubled and said that I must give him time to
untangle a snarl into which he had drifted rather than involved
himself. His family were wealthy and ambitious, and they had
always spoken of his marriage with a cousin who was an heiress,
as a settled thing. He had never bound himself by word or act,
and often laughingly told his parents that they could not arrange
these matters on strictly business principles, as did aristocrats
abroad--that the young lady herself might have something to say, if
he had not. But he was wrapt up in his studies--he was preparing
for a literary life--and events drifted on until he found that every
one of his house hold had set their hearts on this alliance. All
that he could say against it was that he was indifferent. The
lady was pretty and tried to make herself agreeable to him; while
he felt that they had little in common, and was also led to believe
that she would good-naturedly leave him to his own pursuits, and
so he entered no protest to the family schemes, but drifted. That
was the one defect of his character. He was a man of thought and
fancy rather than of decision and action.
"When he returned home and told his parents of his attachment for
me, they were furious, and wrote very bitter letters to both father
and myself, accusing us of having intrigued to obtain a wealthy
alliance. Thank God! father never saw the letter, as he died
suddenly, before he knew how sore a wound I had received. Nor did
I ever show the letter to Mr. Fleetwood, for my father had trained
me too well to sow dissension between parents and son.
"An aunt took me to her home. She was a kindhearted old lady, but
very matter-of-fact and wholly engrossed in her housekeeping, and
I told her nothing. I waited till Mr. Fleetwood sought me out,
which he soon did. I saw that his family were moving heaven and
earth to break off his engagement with me, and it evidently pained
him deeply that he must so greatly disappoint his parents. But
the consideration that weighed most with him was this: they urged
upon him in every possible way that hopes had been raised in the
heart of the young lady herself, and although he was always very
reticent in regard to her. I think she seconded the family scheme,
for the marriage would have joined two very large estates. Although
my heart often stood still with fear while he apparently wavered a
little, I can honestly say I left him free to make his own choice.
They persecuted and urged him to that extent, and so confused his
sense of right and wrong, that, in order to escape from his dilemma,
he managed to get a lieutenant's commission in the army in spite of
his physician's protest, and before his family realized what they
regarded as an immeasurable disaster he was in the Union ranks at
the front. It HAS proved an immeasurable disaster to me.
"He came to see me before he went south, and told me that he preferred
death to any other bride than myself. In sad foreboding I begged
him to give me up rather than go into that awful war with his
imperfect health. But he went. The rest of my story is soon told.
Life in the field seemed to brace him up every way. He wrote me
that he had lived hitherto in books and dreams, and that contact
with strong, forceful men was just what he needed. He wrote almost
daily, and I lived on his letters. He grew strong and heroic in his
exposure to danger and hardship, and won promotion on the simple
ground of merit. At last, after an arduous campaign, he was slightly
wounded and greatly worn, and he received a long leave of absence
after the troops went into winter quarters. He wrote then that he
was coming home to marry me, and no power on earth could prevent it
except my 'own little self,' as he expressed it--oh! I can repeat
all those letters word for word. He wrote me the very day and hour
on which he would start, and I have waited ever since; and I have
vowed before God that I will wait till he comes." And she bowed her
head, her eyes were tearless, and she went on still more hurriedly.
"I afterwards learned from a brother officer, and also from the
papers, that he left his regimental headquarters at the time he said,
but that he had to ride through a region infested with guerrillas,
and that is absolutely all I know. I am sure he wrote to his family
of his intentions in regard to me, but they have never recognized
me in the slightest way. The young lady to whom they would have
married him wore mourning a year, and then was led to the alter by
another man. But, as my Harrold said, God mated our souls, and I
shall wait till he joins our lives. Your name startled me greatly
when I heard it last June for the first time since I had spoken
it myself to one who has seemingly vanished but is ever present to
me, and while you do not resemble him in appearance to any close
extent, there is at times something in your expression that is
singularly like his; and this fact must explain and excuse all the
weak exhibitions of myself this summer. And now, my friend, permit
me to say that your rather ardent words on one or two occasions
never deceived me for a moment. You mistook your warm sympathy
for love. I, who had seen and known the love of Harrold Fleetwood,
could not make such a mistake. You do love Ida Mayhew, and she is
worthy; and in no possible way could you do so much to add to my
happiness, now and always, as by aiding that beautiful girl develop
her new and beautiful life. Harold Van Berg, I would regard it as
an insult if you ever spoke to me of love and marriage after what
I have told you to-day. I shall always value your friendship very,
very much, for I am now alone in the world, and I think I have
found in you a friend in whom I can trust absolutely, and to whom
I could go in case there should be need. Probably there never will
be, for, in my simple, busy life, I have few wants. You may tell
Mr. Stanton what you think best of my story after I am gone. I
regret unspeakably that he should think of me as he does, for I have
learned to respect him as a true, noble-hearted gentleman. It is
one more of life's strange mysteries. Mr. Van Berg," she said,
springing up, "you have made to me one pledge that you can keep--only
one. You have promised to 'make me happy in my own way.' Brave
Ida Mayhew caught me in her arms when I fainted last Tuesday, and
she watched at my side till morning. Yes, she did; the noble and
generous girl! But I promised myself the pleasure of rewarding
her, if possible. Now, if you wish to do something for me that
demands prompt, heroic action, scramble into a buggy and let one of
Mr. Burleigh's men drive you to that old garden before she leaves
it. She found her new spiritual life there, let her also find her
happy earthly life in the same loved place. Not a word, but go at
once if you have any regard for my feelings and wishes. As I have
told my story, your sympathetic face has been more eloquent than
any words, and leaves nothing to be said. I refuse to see you or
speak to you again till you have fulfilled the only promise I ever
asked or wished you to make," and she left him and quickly disappeared.
Ten minutes later Van Berg was being driven towards Mr. Eltinge's
place, at a speed which threatened, in case of accident, to place
him beyond the use of crutches. As he rode along in front of the
house he saw that Ida's old horse and low phaeton were still in the
shade of the trees; therefore, dismissing his driver, he hobbled
with singular alacrity across the lawn and suddenly presented
himself before Mr. Eltinge and Ida, much to the surprise of the
latter, who hastily wiped her eyes and sought to hide the fact that
her thoughts had not been very cheerful.
"Pardon me," he said, "but I left my sketchbook here some days since;
and I especially wished to bid Mr. Eltinge good-by and to thank
him with all the warmth and fulness that can be put into words."
Mr. Eltinge was cordially and gravely kind in his reception, but
Ida kept her face averted, for she knew that the traces of grief
were too apparent.
After a few moments Mr. Eltinge said: "Since this is your last
visit, I cannot think of letting either of you go back before dinner,
and, if you will excuse me for a little time, I soon can see that
our simple arrangements are made."
"I shall be very glad to remain," said Van Berg, so promptly that
Ida turned and looked at him with surprise. She was still more
surprised when, as soon as they were alone, he hobbled to the rustic
seat and sat down beside her.
"Miss Ida," he said, "you have always given me such admirable advice
that I come to you again. Miss Burton refuses me absolutely and
irrevocably, and in language that renders it impossible for me
ever to address her again on the subject. You thus perceive what
a forlorn object is before you--a rejected man and a cripple!"
"Miss Burton refused you!" exclaimed Ida in utter amazement. "You
were but a cold wooer, I imagine," she added reproachfully, and
she rose from the seat and stood aloof from him.
"You know well, Miss Ida," he said earnestly, "that a falsehood
would be impossible in this place, and I assure you I honestly did
the best I could. We have plighted our faith in a friendship that
will be a brother's love on my part, but she said solemnly that
she would regard offers of marriage from me, now or at any future
time, as an insult. In brief, she has at last told me her story.
Her lover is dead, and it was because she detected certain resemblances
in my appearance to him that she looked at me sometimes in the
way you described. I had surmised as much before, but at one time
hoped that this accidental resemblance might give me a vantage-ground
in winning her from a past that I knew must have been very sad
indeed. My resemblance was only an outward one, the man himself
was immeasurably my superior, and on the principle of contrast alone
Jennie Burton could never think of me. But her love for Harrold
Fleetwood is her life. It is a strange, unearthly devotion that
time only increases. I felt weeks since that I could worship her
as a saint far easier than I could love her as a woman, and I now
know the reason. It would indeed be an insult for any man to speak
to her of love and marriage, if he knew what I have learned to-day."
"Then poor Cousin Ik has no chance either," said Ida, with tears
in her eyes.
"No, I do not think he has, although she has learned to appreciate
him. She spoke of him as a 'true, noble-hearted gentleman,' and
such terms from the lips of a woman like Jennie Burton are better
than a king's title. As far as my complacent and deliberate wooing
of last summer is concerned, I believe that when it did not pain and
annoy her she was rather amused by it. She had seen the genuine
thing, you know, and thus I was the only one imposed upon by a
sentiment which at the time received the unqualified approval of
my infallible reason and judgment. The very superior Mr. Harold
Van Berg once declined your acquaintance, as you may remember. Take
your full revenge upon him now, for you see to what a battered and
dilapidated condition of body and mind he has been reduced. He
has developed a genius for blundering and getting himself and other
people into trouble, that is quite sublime. If ever a man needed
daily advice and counsel, he does, and the incalculable service
that you have rendered him in this respect leads him to come to
"Indeed, sir," said Ida, turning away with a crimson face, "I have
no further advice to give you. Mr. Eltinge will soon be back;
take him as your counsellor. I'm going to gather some flowers for
He at once was on his crutches and in close pursuit, but she
flitted away before him till in despair he returned to the rustic
seat. Then she shyly and hesitatingly began to approach, apparently
absorbed in tying up her flowers.
"Haven't you observed that I am a cripple?" he asked.
"I have observed that you are a very nimble one."
"I think you are very cruel to treat a helpless man in this style."
"Indeed, sir, I have not taken away your crutches. When you spoke
of a helpless man, to whom did you refer?"
"I thought you once said that mercy was 'twice bless'd.'"
"That's a truism that has become a little trite. Don't you think
Mr. Eltinge will like my bouquet?"
"Here is a flower that to me is worth all that ever bloomed. Come
and tell me if you still recognize it," and he took out the little
note-book in which was pressed the imperfect and emblematic rose-bud.
"Poor little thing!" Ida sighed, looking over his shoulder, "how
faded it has become!"
By a motion that was almost instantaneous he dropped the note-book
and caught her hand. "Yes, Ida," he said eagerly, it is faded, but
it grows dearer to me daily, as you will long after the exquisite
color has faded from your face. Ida Mayhew, the brook has stopped
now because it cannot help itself, nor will it ever go on again,
even in spring or summer, unless it bears you away with it."
She turned and looked him full in his eyes, in accordance with her
custom when she felt that she must know the innermost thoughts of
"Mr. Van Berg," she said very gravely, "let that little emblem
there remind you that you are speaking to a very faulty and ignorant
girl. I cannot regain in a few weeks what I have lost in a wasted
life. You may regret---"
"Hush, Ida; for once I will not listen to you. When I believed
myself dying my chief thought was of you, and when I heard sounds
near me, in my half unconscious state I called your name."
"Oh, that it had been my privilege to answer," she sighed.
"You saved me when I was in far worse peril," he resumed in words
that flowed like a torrent. "You saved my honor, my manhood; you
saved me from folly that would have blasted my life. I owe far more
to you than to Jennie Burton, and I know at what cost to yourself.
Ida, I shall never hide anything from you. I came back last Monday
for my sketch-book, and I heard you say: 'It would be easier for
me to die than give him up for your sake, Jennie Burton.' Then
only I learned your secret; then for the first I understood your
self-sacrifice for the sake of honor and duty. Until then I thought
the struggle to forget would be on my part only. From that moment
never did a man honor a woman more than I honor and reverence you.
My mother gave me this ring and told me never to part with it until
I found a woman that I could love and honor even more than her,
and I never shall part with it till I put it on your hand," and
she had scarcely time to glance down, before she saw a diamond
glittering on her engagement finger.
"I gave up that which was life to me for His sake, and thus soon He
gives back to me far more," Ida murmured, and she rested her head
on Van Berg's shoulder with a look of infinite content. A moment
later she added: "Oh, I'm so glad for father's sake."
"Are you not a little glad for your own?"
"Oh, Harold! compare this--God's way out of trouble with the one
"The past has gone by forever, Ida, and you have received your
woman's soul in the good old-fashioned way. In my heart of hearts
I have changed your name from Ida to Ideal."
They had not noticed that Mr. Eltinge had come down the garden
walk to summon them to dinner. The old gentleman discovered that
there had been a transformation scene in his absence, although
he took off his spectacles twice, and wiped them before he seemed
fully satisfied of its reality.
"Ahem! I fear our plain dinner will be a very prosaic interruption;
but---" he began.
"Oh, Mr. Eltinge," cried Ida, springing to him, her cheeks putting
to shame any flower of his garden, "I owe all this to you!"
"Mr. Van Berg," said Mr. Eltinge, with the stately courtesy of the
old school, "with your permission I now shall take full payment,"
and stooping down he kissed her tenderly, with a fervent "God bless
you, my child! God bless you both! I thought it would all end in
It was late in the day when Ida drove up to the steps of the Lake
House and assisted Van Berg to alight with a care and solicitude
that Stanton, who was grimly watching them, thought a trifle too
apparent. She gave a hasty side-glance to her cousin, but would
not trust herself to do more in the presence of others.
"Mr. Van Berg, I would like to see you alone a few moments," said
Stanton in a low tone.
The artist hobbled cheerfully into one of the small private parlors,
and stretched himself out very luxuriously on the sofa, saying as
he did so, "Take the rocking-chair, Ik."
"No, sir," said Stanton stiffly. "I shall trespass but a few
moments on your time--only long enough to keep a promise and perform
a duty. In circumstances that you can scarcely have forgotten,
you assured me that I was in honor bound to give my cousin, Miss
Mayhew, a brother's care. You asserted very emphatically that with
her peculiar temperament she ought to be saved from any serious
trouble. What I then promised from a sense of duty I now perform
from warm affection. As far as a brother's love and care is
concerned, Ida Mayhew is my sister, and as a brother I insist, in
view of your relations with Miss Burton, that you do not give to
her so much of your society. Not that I mean to insinuate in the
faintest possible way, that my cousin entertains for you anything
more than an ordinary and friendly regard. It is my intention
only to remind you that your course has been a little peculiar of
late, to say the least, and that it is often far better to prevent
trouble than remedy it."
"The mischief is all done, Ik; you are too late."
"What do you mean, sir?"
"Well, one thing at a time. Miss Burton has refused me absolutely."
"I don't wonder!" said Stanton indignantly.
"Nor I either, Ik. You are a hundredfold more worthy of her than
I am or ever was. I once regarded myself as slightly your superior,
Isaac, but circumstances have proved that you have enough good
metal in you to make a dozen such men as I am."
"I want explanations, not compliments," said Stanton sternly.
"Sit down, and I'll tell you everything. Then you can brain me
with one of the crutches, if you wish," and Van Berg related to
Stanton substantially all that occurred between himself and Jennie
Burton. "She said I could tell you after she was gone, but I think
it is best you should know before. She understands and honors
you, and you should understand her. Her heart is buried so deep
in some unnamed, unmarked grave that it will find, I fear, no
resurrection on earth. I told you the first day she came to this
house that she had had an experience that separated her from ordinary
humanity, and also predicted that she would wake you up and make
a man of you. She has made you a prince among men. You are my
elder brother, Ik, from this time forth, and I won't put on any more
airs with you. As I said, your remarks in regard to your cousin
came a little late. You see, my ring is gone, and you know I have
often laughingly told you that my mother gave it to me on conditions
that made it very safe property. I have parted with it, however,
and very honestly too; but you will see it again, soon."
"Van," said Stanton, with a slight quaver in his voice, and a very
sickly attempt at his old humor, "I have forfeited my wager that
followed your prediction, which I thought so absurd at the time;
but I'll forgive you everything, and bestow my blessing on you and
Ida, if you will paint me a portrait of Miss Burton."
"The best I can possibly make, Ik, and she shall look as she did
when she called you a true, noble-hearted gentleman."
Van Berg now found no difficulty in bringing about a friendship
between Ida and Jennie Burton, and the two maidens spent the greater
part of Sabbath afternoon together. Ida hid nothing in her full
confidence, not even the crime that had been in her thoughts, and
which might have destroyed the life that now was growing so rich
and beautiful. When her pathetic story was completed, Jennie said:
"Mr. Van Berg has told me some things in your favor that you have
omitted. I cannot flatter myself now that my love is stronger than
yours, but you are stronger, you are braver. What is the secret of
your strength? Your religion seems to do you more good than mine
"Well, Jennie," said Ida musingly, there seems to me this difference.
"You have a God, I have a Saviour; you have a faith, I have a tender
and helpful Friend. Jesus Christ has said to those who love and
trust him: 'Let not your hearts be troubled.' He said these words
to men who were to suffer all things, and did so, Mr. Eltinge told
me. It's just the same as if he said, You don't know, I do; leave
everything to me, and it shall all be for the best in the end. See
how all my trouble this summer has just prepared for this happiness,
and I believe, Jennie, that your eternity of happiness will be
made all the richer for every sad day of your unselfish life. The
souls of such men as Harrold Fleetwood are God's richest treasures,
and he whose name is Love surely kindled such love as yours and
his. The God that the Bible reveals to me will not permit it to be
lost," and with Jennie's head on her bosom she sang low and sweetly:
No hope, 'tis said, though buried deep,
But angels o'er it vigils keep;
No love in sepulchre shall stay,
For Christ our Friend has rolled away
The heavy stone of death.
"Oh, sing me those words again," sobbed Jennie: "sing them again
and again, till they fill my heart with hope."
Ida did so.
"O Ida! God's good angel to me as well as to Harold Van Berg,"
said Jennie, smiling through her tears. "I bless you for those
hopeful words. They will repeat themselves in my heart till all
is clear and our souls that God mated are joined again. My Harrold
was not one who said 'Lord, Lord' very often, but I know that
he tried to 'do the will of his Father which is in heaven.' I am
going to your Friend, Ida, for if ever a poor mortal needed more
than mortal help and cheer, I do. I shall just give up everything
into his hands, and wait patiently."
"The life he will give you again, Jennie, will be infinitely richer
than the one you have lost."
Early in the following week Miss Burton returned to her college
duties. Before parting she said to Ida: "I do not think I shall
ever give way again to my old, bitter, heart-breaking grief."
Almost every one in the house wanted to shake hands with her
in farewell. Poor Mr. Burleigh tried to disguise his feelings by
putting crepe on his hat and tying black shawl of his wife's around
his arm; but he blew his nose so often that he finally said he was
"taking cold on the piazza," and so made a hasty retreat.
Ida and Van Berg accompanied Jennie to the depot, but Stanton was
not to be found till they reached the station, when he quietly
stepped forward and handed Jennie her checks. She was trying to
say something that she meant should show her appreciation, when the
train thundered up, and he handed her into a palace car, in which
she found he had secured her a seat, and before she had time to
say a word her tickets were in her hands and he was gone.
When, after several hours' riding, she approached a station at which
she must change cars and recheck her trunks, a friendly voice said
"Miss Burton, if you will give me your checks I will attend to this
little matter for you."
"Mr. Stanton!" she exclaimed. "What does this mean?"
"It means that since I am on the same train with you, I can do no
less than offer so slight a service."
She looked at him very doubtfully, as she said: "I don't know
what to think of this journey of yours. Let me now pay you for my
"Mr. Van Berg handed me the money you gave him for that purpose.
It's all right. Your checks please; there is but little time."
His manner was so quiet and assured, that she handed them to him
hesitatingly, and a moment later stepped out on the platform.
In a few moments she called: "Oh, Mr. Stanton, you have lost your
"Not at all. I am going to Boston. There are your checks once
more, and here is your train and seat," he added, as he accompanied
her to it. Then he lifted his hat, and was about to depart, when
she said: "Since you are on the same train, perhaps you will venture
to take this seat near me. I never was curious about a gentleman's
business before; but it strikes me as a rather odd coincidence that
you are going to Boston to-day."
"A great many people go to Boston," he replied.
"It's for my sake you are taking this long journey, Mr. Stanton,"
she said, regretfully.
"Yes," he replied, in the same quiet, undemonstrative manner that
he had maintained towards her for some weeks past; "this journey
is for your sake, and for your sake I shall take a very different
journey through life from the one I had marked out for myself. I
know your sad story, Miss Burton. I expect nothing from you, I
hope for nothing, and I shall never ask anything, except a little
confidence on your part, so that I can render you an occasional
service. Never for a moment imagine that I am cherishing hopes
that I know well you cannot reward."
"Mr. Stanton, this is beyond my comprehension!"
"There seems to me nothing strange or unnatural in it," he said.
"You found me a pleasure-loving animal, and through your influence
I think I am becoming somewhat different. You have taught me that
there is a higher and better world than that of sense. How good
a work I can do in life I will let the years prove as they pass.
But I do not think my feelings will ever change towards you, save
as time deepens and strengthens them. Van thinks all the world of
you, as well he may; but his life will be very happy and full of
many interest. I shall think of you alone, and the work I do for
your sake until I can add another motive. Of course I believe in a
heaven--such lives as your make one necessary; and I mean to find
a way of getting there. In the meantime, you are my motive; but my
regard for you shall be so very unobtrusive that I trust you will
not resent it, and the thought of my unseen care and watchfulness
may in time come to be a pleasant one."
There was nothing in his tone or manner to indicate that to their
fellow-travelers that he was not speaking on the most ordinary
topic; and he looked her full in the face with his clear dark eyes,
in which she saw only truth and faithfulness.
She was very, very deeply touched, and she could not keep the tears
out of her eyes as she leaned towards him and said in tones that
no others could hear:
"I am no longer the friendless orphan I was when I came to the Lake
House. In Mr. Van Berg I have found a friend whom I can trust; in
you, Ik Stanton, a brother that I can love."
If the reader's patience has not failed him up to this long-deferred
moment, it shall now be rewarded by a few brief, concluding words.
Mrs. Mayhew felt considerably aggrieved that she had had so little
part in Ida's engagement with the wealthy and aristocratic Mr.
Van Berg, and in later years she complained that they were very
unfashionable, and spent an unreasonable amount of time in looking
after all kinds of charitable institutions. Mr. Mayhew drank ever
deeper at the full fountain of his child's love, and is serenely
passing on to an honorable old age. Mr. Eltinge is now beyond age
and weakness, but Ida often murmurs with tears in her eyes as she
looks at his portrait, "He is just speaking to me as he did when
my heart was breaking." Stanton's city friends say that he has
greatly changed and might stand very high as a lawyer and politician
if he were not so quixotic and prone to take cases in which there
was no money, but he receives letters from New England which seem
to compensate him for lack of large fees. Van Berg has not yet
regretted that he entrusted "faulty Ida Mayhew" with his happiness,
and he is more anxious than ever to lure her to his studio. For
a long time he had to take the truth of her faith on trust but at
last he stood by her side at God's altar and confessed that Name
which has been the lowliest and grandest of earth.
Ida is still very human, but with all her faults, her husband often
whispers in her ear: "Not Ida, but Ideal." She is continually
giving up her life for Christ's sake, and as often finds it coming
back to her in some richer, sweeter form; and by her simple, joyous
faith has led many to the Friend she found in the quaint old garden,
and who says of all who come, "I will give unto them eternal life."
Jennie Burton is still waiting; but at the end of each day of
faithful work she sings the song of hope that Ida taught her:
No hope, 'tis said, though buried deep,
But angels o'er it vigils keep;
No love in sepulchre shall stay,
For Christ MY Friend will roll away
The heavy stone of death.