Part 3 out of 10
Mr. Burleigh stroked his beard and looked rather blank for a moment.
"Now I think of it," he ejaculated, "I be hanged if she said a word
about herself. And now I think further of it, she somehow or other
got Mrs. Burleigh and myself a-talking, and seemed so interested
in us and what we said, that I be hanged again if we didn't tell
her all we know about ourselves."
"She impresses every one as being remarkably frank, and yet I
think it will be found that she is peculiarly reticent in regard
to herself," remarked Van Berg musingly. "Well, it's not often I
take people on trust, but I have given this lady my entire respect
"I assure you that there is no trust in this business," said Mr.
Burleigh, emphatically. "I can't afford to indulge in sentiment,
gentlemen; besides, it couldn't be any more becoming in me than in
Tom Chints. I wouldn't take an unprotected, unknown female into
my house if she came with a pair of wings. But Miss Burton brings
letters that establish her character as a lady as truly as that
of any other woman in the house. I ought to have prevented this
Chints business, but then five hundred is a nice little plum, and
before I pulled my slow wits together the thing was done."
"By the way, Mr. Burleigh," remarked Stanton, "I hear that the
parties who are now at my friend Van Berg's table are soon to leave
for the sea-shore. Can you give me three seats there after their
"Certainly; put you down right alongside of Miss Burton."
"Perhaps Van Berg feels that he has the first claim to so good a
"No, Stanton, I shall not place a straw in your way."
"You never were a man of straw, Van. If I were seeking more than
to enjoy the society of this young lady, who seems to be embodied
sunshine, I would be sorry to have you place yourself in the way."
"Sunshine brought to a focus kindles even green wood," remarked
Van Berg, with a significant nod at his friend.
"Well," said Mr. Burleigh, rising, "if I had not found my mate, I'd
be a burr that that little woman wouldn't get rid of very easily.
Good-night, gentlemen. I'll give either one of you my blessing."
"Good-night, Van," said Stanton, also. "I'm not going to stay and
listen to your absurd predictions. Neither shall I permit you to
enjoy all by yourself the delicate wine of that woman's wit. When
good things are passing round, I propose to have my share. My
presence can't hurt your prospects."
"And if it did, Ik, do you think me such a churl as to try to crowd
"That's magnanimous. I suppose you and my cousin can manage to
keep the peace between you."
"I think the change will be far more disagreeable to Miss Mayhew
than to me."
"You are very polite to say so. Good-night."
"Well," mused Van Berg, when left to himself; "I've made progress
to-day after a fashion. We have been quite thoroughly introduced--in
fact 'thrown together,' as fate and all her friends will have it.
I might have been weeks in gaining as much insight into her character
as circumstances have given me in a few brief hours. But what
a miserable revelation she has made of herself--cowardice this
morning--fraud this afternoon, and cold selfishness, that can
amuse itself with the mortification and misfortunes of others, this
evening. This is the moral side of the picture. But when I came
to 'speer' around to see whether she had any mind or real culture,
the exhibition was still more pitiable. Ye gods! that a girl can
live to her age and know so little that is worth knowing! She
knows how to dress--that is, how to enhance her physical beauty;
and that, I admit, is a great deal. As far as it goes it is well.
But of the taste of a beautiful and, at the same time, intellectual
and highly cultivated woman, she has no conception; with her it is
a question of flesh and blood only."
"I wonder if it will ever be otherwise? I wonder if her marvellous
beauty, which is now like a budding rose, that partly conceals the
worm in its heart, will soon, like the overblown flower, reveal
so clearly what mars its life that scarcely anything else will be
noticed. What a fate for a man--to be tied for life to a woman
who will, with sure gradation, pass from at least outward beauty
to utter hideousness! Beauty, in a case like this, is but a mask
which time or the loathsome fingers of disease would surely strip
off; and then what an object would confront the disenchanted lover!
It would be like marrying a disguised death's-head. Never before
did I realize how essential is mental and moral culture to give
value to mere external beauty.
"And yet she seems to have a kind of quickness and aptness. She is
not wanting in womanly intuition. I still am inclined to believe
she has been dwarfed by circumstances and her wretched associations.
Her mind has been given no better means of development than
the knowledge of her beauty, the general and superficial homage
that it always receives, the little round of thought that centres
about self, and the daily question of dress. That's narrowing the
world down to a cage large enough only for a poll-parrot. If the
bird within has a parrot's nature, what is the use of opening the
door and showing it larks singing in the sky? I fear that's what
I'm trying to do, and that I shall go back to my fall work with a
meagre portfolio and a grudge against nature, for mocking me with
the fairest broken promise ever made."
Chapter XIV. A Revelation.
The next day threatened to be a dreary one, for the rain fell so
steadily as to make all sunny, out-of-door pleasures impossible.
Many looked abroad with faces as dismal and cloudy as the sky;
for the number of those who rise above their circumstances with a
cheery courage are but few. Human faces can shine, although the
sun be clouded; but, as a rule, the shadow falls on the face also,
and the regal spirit succumbs like a clod of earth.
The people came straggling down late to breakfast in the dark
morning, and, with a childish egotism that considers only self and
immediate desires, the lowering weather which meant renewed beauty
and wealth to all the land, was berated as if it were a small spite
against the handful of people at the Lake House. Van Berg heard
Ida Mayhew exclaiming against the clouds as if this spite were
aimed at herself only.
"Some of her friends might not venture from the city," she said.
"They youths are not venturesome, then," remarked Stanton, who
never lost an opportunity to tease.
"Of course they don't wish to get wet," she pouted.
"And yet I'll wager any amount that they are not of the 'salt of
the earth' in any scriptural sense. Well, they had better stay
in town, for this would be an instance of 'much ventured, nothing
"You remind me of a certain fox who could not say enough hard things
about the grapes that were out of reach. But mark my words, Mr.
Sibley will come, if it pours."
"He wouldn't risk the spoiling of his clothes for any woman living."
"You judge him by yourself. Oh, dear, how shall I get through this
long, horrible day! You men can smoke like bad chimneys through
a storm, but for me there is no resource to-day, but a dull novel
that I've read once before. Let me see, I'll read an hour and
sleep three, and then it will be time to dress for dinner. Oh,
good-morning, Mr. Van Berg," she says to the artist who had been
listening to her while apparently giving close attention to Mrs.
Mayhew's interminable tirade against rainy days; "I have just been
envying you gentlemen who can kill stupid hours by smoking."
"I admit that it is almost as bad as sleeping."
"I see that you have a homily prepared on improving the time, so
I shall escape at once."
On the stairs she met Miss Burton, who was descending with a breezy
swiftness as if she were making a charge on the general gloom and
sullenness of the day.
"Good-morning, Miss Mayhew," she said; "I'm glad to see you looking
so well after the severe shaking up you had yesterday. You would
almost tempt one to believe that rough usage is sometimes good for
"I have no such belief, I assure you. Yesterday was bad enough,
but to-day promises to be worse. I was going to make up a boating
party, but what can one do when the water is overhead instead of
under the keel?"
"Scores of things," was the cheery reply. "I'm going to have a
"I'm going to sleep," said Ida, passing on.
"Miss Burton," said Stanton, joining her at the foot of the stairs,
"I perceive, even from your manner of descending to our lower world,
that you are destined to vanquish the dullness of this rainy day.
Don't you wish an ally?"
"Would you be an ally, Mr. Stanton, if you saw I was destined to
"Of course I would."
"Look in the parlor then. There are at least a dozen ladies
already vanquished. They are oppressed by the foul-fiend, 'ennui.'
Transfer your chivalric offer to them and deliver them."
"Stanton," laughed Van Berg, "you are in honor bound to devote
yourself to those oppressed ladies."
"The prospect is so dark and depressing that I shall at least cheer
myself first with the light of a cigar."
"And so your chivalry will end in smoke," she said.
"Yes, Miss Burton, the smoke of battle, where you are concerned."
"I fear your wit is readier than your sword. The soldier that
boasts how he would overwhelm some other foe than the one before
him loses credit to the degree that he protests."
"You are more exacting, Miss Burton, than the lady who threw her
glove down among the lions. What chance would Hercules himself
have of lifting those twelve heavy females out of the dumps?"
"It's not what we do, but what we attempt, that shows our spirit."
"Then I shall expect to see you attempt great things."
"I'm only a woman."
"And I'm only a man."
"Only a man! what greater vantage-ground could one have than to be
"The advantage is not so uncommon that one need be unduly elated,"
state Stanton with a shrug. "I forget how many hundred millions
of us there are. But I'm curious to see how you will set about
rendering the hues of this leaden day prismatic."
"Only by being the innocent cause of your highly colored language,
"Oh, dear," exclaimed a little boy petulantly, as he strolled through
the hall and looked out at the steady downfall of rain. "Oh dear!
Why can't it stop raining?"
"There's the philosophy of our time for you in a nutshell," said
Van Berg. "When a human atom wants anything, what business has
the universe to stand in its way?"
"But you have no better philosophy to offer the disconsolate little
fellow, Mr. Ban Berg?" Miss Burton asked.
"Now, Van, it's your turn. Remember, Miss Burton, he has the same
vantage-ground that I have. Indeed he's half an inch taller."
"The world long ago learned better than to measure men by inches,
"Alas, Miss Burton," said Van Berg; "the best philosophy I have is
this: when it rains, let it rain."
"And thus I'm privileged to meet representatives of those two
ancient and honorable schools, the Stoic and Epicurean, and you both
think, I fear, that if Xanthippe had founded a school, my philosophy
would also be defined. But perhaps you will think better of me if
I tell that little fellow a story to pass the time for him. What's
the matter, little folk?" she asked, for two or three more small
clouded faces had gathered at the door.
"Matter enough," said the boy. "This horrid old rain keeps us in
the house, where we can't do anything or stay anywhere. We mustn't
play in the parlor, we mustn't make a noise in the halls, we mustn't
run on the piazzas. I'd like to live in a world where there was
some place for boys."
"Poor child," said Miss Burton; "this rain is as bad for you as
the deluge to Noah's dove, it has left you no refuge for the sole
of your foot. Will you come with me? No one has said you must
not hear a jolly story."
"You won't tell me about any good little boys who died when they
were as big as I am?"
"I'll keep my word--it shall be a jolly story."
"May we hear it too?" asked the other children.
"Yes, all of you."
"Where shall we go?"
"We won't disturb any one in the far corner of the parlor by the
piano. If you know of any other little people, you can bring them
there, too," and they each darted off in search of especial cronies.
"May we not hear the story also?" asked Stanton.
"No, indeed, I may be able to interest children, but not philosophers."
"Then we will go and meditate," said Van Berg.
"Yes," she added, "and in accordance with a New York custom of great
antiquity, made familiar to you, no doubt, by that grave historian
Diedrich Knickerbocker, who gives several graphic accounts of such
cloudy ruminations on the part of your city's great-grandfathers."
"I fear you think that the worshipful Peter Stuyvensant's counsellors
indulged in more tobacco than thought, and that the majority of
them had as few ideas as one of Mr. Burleigh's chimneys," said Van
Berg. "And you regard us as the direct descendants of these men,
whose lives were crowned with smoke-wreaths only."
"Now, Mr. Van Berg, you prove yourself to be a philosopher of a
modern school, you draw your inductions so far and wide from your
"Well, Miss Burton, you stand in very favorable contrast with us
poor mortals. We are going out to add to the clouds that lower
over the world, while you are trying to banish them."
"And if, after helping the children towards the close of this
dismal day, your heart should relent towards us," added Stanton,
"you will find two worthy objects of your charity."
"Oh what a falling off is here!" she exclaimed, following the
impatient children. "Knights at first, then philosophers, and now
objects of charity."
Miss Burton evidently kept her word, and told a "jolly story," for
the friends saw through the parlor windows that the circle around
her grew larger and more hilarious continually. Then would follow
moments of rapt and eager attention, showing that the tale gained
in excitement and interest what it lost in humor. Young people,
who did not like to be classed with children, one by one yielded
to the temptation. There was life and enjoyment in that corner
and dulness elsewhere, and nothing is so attractive in the world
as genuine and joyous life.
Even elderly ladies looked wistfully up at the occasional bursts
of contagious merriment, and then sighed that they had lost the
power of laughing so easily.
At last the marvelous legend came to an end amid a round of prolonged
"Another, another!" was the general outcry.
But Miss Burton had observed that the ladies and gentlemen present
seemed inclined to be friendly towards the young people's fun, and
therefore she broached another scheme of pleasure that would vary
"Perhaps," she said, "your papas and mammas and the other good
people will not object to an old-fashioned Virginia reel."
A shout of welcome greeted this proposition.
Miss Burton raised her finger so impressively that there was an
instant hush. Indeed she seemed to have gained entire control of
the large and miscellaneous group which surrounded her.
"We will draw up a petition," she said; "for we best enjoy our own
rights and pleasures when respecting those of others. This little
boy and girl shall take the petition around to all the ladies and
gentlemen in the room, and this shall be the petition:
"'Dear lady and kind sir: Please don't object to our dancing a
Virginia reel in the parlor.'"
"All who wish to dance can sign it. Now we will go to the office
and draw up the petition." And away they all started, the younger
children, wild with glee, capering in advance.
Stanton threw away his cigar and met her at the office register.
"Gentle shepherdess," he asked, "whither are you leading your
"How behind the age you are!" she replied. "Can you not see that
the flock is leading me?"
"If I were a wolf I would not trouble the flock but would carry
off the shepherdess--to a game of billiards."
"What, then, would become of the flock?"
"that's a question that never troubles a wolf."
"A wolfish answer truly. I think, however, you have reversed the
parable, and are but a well-meaning sheep that has donned a wolf's
skin, and so we will put you to the test. We young people will
give you a chance to draw up our petition, which, if you would
save your character, you must do at once with sheep-like docility,
asking no questions and causing no delay. There, that will answer;
very sheepishly done, but no sheep's eyes, if you please," she
added, as Stanton pretended to look up to her for inspiration,
while writing. "Now, all sign. I think I can trust you, sir, on
the outskirts of the flock. Here, my little man and woman, go to
each of the ladies and gentlemen, make a bow and a courtesy, and
present the petition."
"May I not gambol with the shepherdess in the coming pastoral?"
"No, indeed! You are much too old; besides, I am going to play.
You may look gravely on."
Every one in the parlor smiling assented to the odd little couple
that bobbed up and down before them, and moved out of the way for
the dancers. The petitioners therefore soon returned and were
welcomed with applause.
"Now go to the inner office and present the petition to Mr. Burleigh,"
said Miss Burton.
"Hollo!" cried that gentleman, looking around with a great show
of savagery, as the little girl pulled the skirt of his coat to
attract his attention; "where's King Herod?"
"We wish to try another method with the children," answered Miss
Burton. "Will it please you therefore graciously to read the
petition. All in the parlor have assented."
"My goodness gracious---"
"No swearing, sir, if you please."
"Woman has been too many for man ever since she got him into trouble
by eating green apples," ejaculated Mr. Burleigh with a despairing
gesture. "Why do you mock me with petitions? THERE is the power
behind the throne," pointing to Miss Burton.
"Take your places, small ladies and gentlemen," she cried. "That's
Mr. Burleigh's way of saying yes. While you are forming, I'll play
a few bars to give you the time."
Did she bewitch the piano that it responded so wonderfully to
her touch? Where had she found such quaint, dainty music, simple
as the old-fashioned dance itself, so that the little ones could
keep time to it, and yet pleasing Van Berg's fastidious ear with
its unhackneyed and refined melody. But the marked and marvellous
feature in her playing was an airy rolicksomeness that was as
irresistible as a panic. Old ladies' heads began to bob over their
fancy work most absurdly. Two quartets of elderly gentlemen at
whist were evidently beginning to play badly, their feet meantime
tapping the floor in a most unwonted manner.
"Were I as dead as Julius Caesar I could not resist that quickstep,"
cried Stanton; and he rushed over to his aunt, Mrs. Mayhew, and
dragged her into line.
"What in the name of all the witches of Salem has got into that
piano!" cried Mr. Burleigh, bursting into the parlor from the
office, with his pen stuck behind his ear, and his hair brushed
up perpendicularly. "There's sorcery in the air. I'm practised
upon--Keep still? No, not if I was nailed up in one of the
soldier's 'wooden overcoats.' The world is transformed, transfigured,
transmogrified, and 'things are not what they seem!' Here's
a blooming girl who'll dance with me," and he seized the hand of
a white-haired old lady who yielded to the contagion so far as to
take a place in the line beside her granddaughter.
Indeed, in a few moments, all who had been familiar with the pastime
in their youth, caught the joyous infection, and lengthened out
the lines, each new accession being greeted with shouts and laughter.
The scene approached in character that described by Hawthorne
as occurring in the grounds of the Villa Borghese when Donatello,
with a simple "tambourine," produced music of such "indescribably
potency" that sallow, haggard, half-starved peasants, French soldiers,
scarlet-costumed contadinas, Swiss guards, German artists, English
lords, and herdsmen from the Campagna, all "joined hands in the
dance" which the musician himself led with the frisky, frolicsome
step of the mythical faun.
In the latter instance it was a contagious, mad excitement easily
possible among hot-blooded people and wandering pleasure-seekers,
the primal laws of whose being are impulse and passion. That the
joyous exhilaration which filled Mr. Burleigh's parlor was akin
to the wild, half pagan frenzy that the great master of fiction
imagined as seizing upon the loiterers near the Villa Borghese cannot
be denied. Both phases of excitement would spring naturally from
the universal craving for pleasurable life and activity. The
one, however, was a rank growth from a rank soil--the passionate
ebullition of passion-swayed natures; the other was inspired by
the magnetic spirit of a New England maiden, who, by some law of
her nature or consecration of her life, devoted every power of her
being to the vivifying of others, and the frolic she had instigated
was as free from the grosser elements as the tossing wild flowers
of her native hills. With the exception perhaps of Van Berg, she
had impressed every one as possessing a peculiarly sunny temperament.
Be this as it may, it certainly appeared true that she found her
happiness in enlivening others; and it is difficult even to imagine
how much a gifted mind can accomplish in this respect when every
faculty is devoted to the ministry of kindness.
This view of Miss Burton's character would account in part, but not
wholly, for the power she exercised over others. Van Berg thought
he at times detected a suppressed excitement in her manner. A
light sometimes flickered in her deep blue eyes that might have
been caused by a consuming and hidden fire, rather than by genial
and joyous thoughts.
As he watched her now through the parlor window, her eyes were
burning, her face reminded him of a delicate flame, and her whole
being appeared concentrated into the present moment. In its vivid
life it seemed one of the most remarkable faces he ever saw; but
the thought occurred again and again--"If the features of Ida Mayhew
could be lighted up like that I'd give years of my lifetime to be
able to paint the beauty that would result."
Just at this moment he saw that young lady approach the parlor
entrance with an expression of wonder on her face. He immediately
joined her, and she said:
"Mr. Van Berg, what miracle has caused this scene?"
"Come with me and I'll show you," he answered and he led her to
the window opposite to Miss Burton, where she sat at the piano.
"There," he said, "is the miracle,--a gifted, magnetic, unselfish
woman devoting herself wholly to the enjoyment of others. She
has created more sunshine this dismal day than we have had in the
house since I've been here. Is not that face there a revelation?"
"A revelation of what?" she asked with rising color.
"Of the possibilities of the human face to grow in beauty and
power, if kindled by a noble and animating mind. Ye gods!" cried
the artist, expressing the excitement which he felt in common with
others in accordance with the law of his own ruling passion, "but
I would give much to reproduce that face on canvas;" and then
he added with a despairing gesture, "but who can paint flame and
After a moment he exclaimed, with flushed cheeks and flashing eyes:
"It appears to me that if kindled by such a mind as that which is
burning in yonder face, I could attempt anything and accomplish
everything. Limitations melt away before a growing sense of power.
What an inspiration a woman can be to a man, or what a mill-stone
about his neck, according to what she is! Ah!---"
The cause of this exclamation cannot be explained in the brief time
that it occurred. Stanton had happened at that moment to catch a
glimpse of Van Berg and his cousin, and he called quite loudly:
"Harold, bring Miss Mayhew in and join us."
At the same instant Mr. Burleigh's heavy step passing near the piano,
jarred down a picture that was hung insecurely, and it fell with
a crash at Miss Burton's side. Was it the shock of the falling
picture upon unprepared and overstrained nerves, or what was it that
produced the instantaneous change in the joyous-appearing maiden?
Her hands dropped nerveless from the keys. So great was the pallor
that swept over her face that it suggested to he artist the sudden
extinguishment of a lamp. She bowed her head and trembled a moment
and then escaped by a side door.
Van Berg walked hastily to the main entrance, thinking she was
ill, but only saw her vanishing up the stairway with hasty steps.
Many of the dancers, in their kindly solicitude, had tried to intercept
her, but had been too late. It would seem that all ascribed her
indisposition to a nervous shock.
"It is evident," said the lady who had been conversing with her
when she had acted in a like manner on the first day of her arrival,
"that she possesses a highly sensitive organism, which suddenly
gives way when subjected to a strain too severe;" and she remained
Van Berg of her former manifestation of weakness.
He accepted this view as the most natural explanation that could
Chapter XV. Contrasts.
Genuine and genial were the words of sympathy that were expressed
on every side for the young lady who had been transforming the
dull day into one of exceptional jollity. A deputation of ladies
called upon her, but from within her locked door she confirmed the
impression that it was a nervous shock, and that a few hours of
perfect quiet would restore her.
And it would seem that she was right, for she came down to supper
apparently as genial and smiling as ever. Beyond a slight pallor
and a little fulness about her eyes, Van Berg could detect no trace
of her sudden indisposition.
The remainder of the day was passed more quietly by the guests
of the Lake House, but the force of Miss Burton's example did not
spend itself at once, and on the part of some there was developed
quite a marked disposition to make kindly efforts to promote the
enjoyment of others. The unwonted exhilaration with which she
had inspired her fellow guests was something they could scarcely
account for, and yet the means employed had been so simple and were
so plainly within the reach of all, as to suggest that a genial
manner and an unselfish regard for others were the only conditions
required to enable each one to do something to brighten every cloudy
After Miss Burton's departure, the young people had the dance
to themselves, their elders resuming the avocations and soberer
pleasures from which they had been swept by an impulse evoked from
their half-forgotten youth.
When Van Berg joined Miss Mayhew again, he found her mother and
Stanton trying to explain how it all came about.
"There is no use of multiplying words," concluded Stanton; "Miss
Burton is gifted with a mind, and she uses it for the benefit of
others instead of tasking it solely on her own account, which is
the general rule."
At this moment a letter was handed to Mrs. Mayhew, which she read
with a slight frown and passed to her daughter. It was from Mr.
Mayhew, and contained but a brief sentence to the effect that his
absence would probably be a relief, and therefore he would not
spend the coming Sabbath with them.
Ida did not show the superficial vexation that her mother manifested,
and which was more assumed than real. Her cheek paled a little,
and she instinctively glanced at Van Berg as if her sudden sense
of guilt were apparent to his keen eyes. He was looking at he
searchingly, and she turned away with a quick flush, nor did she give
him a chance to speak with her again that day; but his words--"what
a millstone about a man's neck a woman can be!"--haunted her
continually. Still oftener rose before her Miss Burton's flushed
and kindled face, and the artist's emphatic assertion of the power
of mind and character to add to native beauty. Had she not been a
millstone about her father's neck? Was there not a fatal flaw in
the beauty of which she was so proud, that spoiled it for eyes that
were critical and unblinded?
Oppressed by these thoughts and being in no mood for her cousin's
banter, or the artist's society which always seemed to render her
more uncomfortable, she was glad to escape to the solitude of her
Another "revelation" was slowly dawning upon her mind, namely--just
what she, Ida Mayhew, was. A woman is an "inspiration" or a
"millstone according to what she is," this stranger, this disturber
of her peace, from whom it seemed she could not escape, had not only
asserted but proved by showing her a lady she would have passed as
plain and insignificant, but who nevertheless possessed some sweet
potency that won and cheered all hearts, and who, she was compelled
to admit, was positively beautiful as she sat at the piano, radiant
with her purpose to cause gladness in others. Miss Burton had
created sunshine enough to enliven the dismal day, and had quickened a
hundred pulses with pleasure. She had been a burden even to herself.
Everything, from the artist's first disturbing frown to the present
hour, had been preparing the way for the sharp and painful contrast
that circumstances had forced upon her attention to-day.
But the thought that troubled her most, was that he saw this contrast
more plainly than it was possible for her to see it.
Vaguely, and yet with some approach to the truth, her intuition
began to reveal to her the attitude of his mind towards her. She
believed that he was attracted, but also saw that he was not blinded
by her beauty. She was already beginning to revise her first impression
that he was shutting his eyes to every other consideration, as she
had seen so many do in their brief infatuation. His manner was not
that of one who is taking counsel of passion only. Those ominous
words--"according to what she is"--indicated that he was looking
into her mind, her character. With a sense of dismay, she was
awakening to a knowledge of the dwarfed ugliness her beauty but
partially concealed, and she felt that he, from the first, had been
discovering those defects of which she had been scarcely conscious
herself. She began to fear that her cousin's words would prove true,
and that he would not fall helplessly in love with her. Therefore
the opportunity to retaliate and to punish him for all the
mortifications that he had occasioned her, would never come. On
the contrary, he might inflict upon her, any day, the crowning
humiliation of declaring, be indifference of manner, that he had
found her out so thoroughly, as to entertain for her only feelings
of disgust and repugnance.
"Well," she concluded, recklessly, "why should I care what
he thinks? I have lived thus far without his good opinion, and I
can live a little longer, I imagine. I have had a good time for
eighteen years after my own fashion, and I will just ignore him
and have a good time still. Indeed I'll shock him to-night and
to-morrow so thoroughly, that he won't come near me again; for
I'm sick of his superior airs. I'm sick of his learned talk about
books, pictures, and politics, as if a young society girl were
expected to know about these things; and as for his small talk, it
reminded me of an elephant trying to dance a jig;" and she sprang
up with a snatch of song from the "opera bouffe," and began her
toilet for dinner.
In a few moments, however, she dropped her hairbrush absently, and
forgot to look at her fair face in the mirror.
"I wonder," she mused, "if he and Miss Burton ever met before they
came here? It has been a strange coincidence that she should have
felt such a sudden indisposition in each instance at the same moment
that his name was casually mentioned. True, on both occasions,
events occurred that might account for the sudden giving way of her
nerves, but I cannot help thinking that she has some association
with him that the rest of us know nothing about. She certainly
seems more interested in him than in any one else in the house, for
I have several times noticed peculiar and furtive glances towards
him; besides, they are evidently growing to be very good friends. As
for Ik, he seems quite inclined to enter upon a serious flirtation
with her. But what do I care for either of them! Mr. Sibley
will be here to-night, and I'll enable this artist to bring his
investigations to a close at once. I am what I am, and that's the
end of it, and I won't mope and have a stupid time for anybody, and
certainly not for him. Let him marry the school-ma'am. She can
talk books, art, and all the 'isms' going, to his heart's content.
I, as well as Miss Burton, have my opinion of flirting, and know
from some little experience that it is jolly good fun.
"He can go his way, I'll go mine;
E'en though he frowns, the sun will shine."
And with a careless gesture she affected to dismiss him from her
To judge from her manner that evening and the following day,
one might suppose that she succeeded very fully. Sibley, with an
unwonted venturesomeness, did risk his one immaculate possession,
his clothes, and came from the city through the storm. Ida and
himself, between them, brought about the nearest approach to a
"ball" possible in the circumstances.
The dancing, under their auspices, differed from that of the morning,
not merely in name and form, but in its subtle character. In the
one instance it had been an innocent pastime, occasioned by childlike
and joyous impulses. The people's manner might have reminded one
of a bit of darkened landscape that had been rapidly filled with
light, and almost ecstatic life by the advent of a May morning.
In the evening, however, everything was artificial and in keeping
with the gaslight. The ladies were conscious of their toilets,
conscious of themselves, looking for admiration rather than hearty
enjoyment. Even the older boys and girls, who had been joyous
children in the morning, were now small parodies of fashionable men
and women! A band of hired performers twanged out the hackneyed
dancing music then in vogue, going over their small "repertoire"
with wearisome repetition. People danced at first because it was
the thing to do, and not from any inspiration from the melody. As
the evening wore on, Sibley, who had been drinking quite freely,
tried to introduce, as far as possible, the excitement of a revel,
calling chiefly for swift waltzes and gallops through which he and
Ida whirled in a way that made people's heads dizzy.
Miss Burton, after going through a quadrille with Stanton early
in the evening, had declined to dance any more. She did not feel
very well, she explained to Van Berg as he sought her for the
next form; but he imagined that she early foresaw that Sibley and
others, and among them even Stanton, were inclined to give the
evening a character that was not to her taste.
As Ida had made herself somewhat prominent in inaugurating the
"ball," as Sibley took pains to term it on all occasions, Van Berg,
as a part of his tactics to win the beauty's good-will, tried at
first to make the affair successful. He danced with others, and
twice sought her hand; but in each case she rather indifferently
told him that she was engaged. He would not have sought her as a
partner after his first rebuff had he not imagined, from occasional
and furtive glances, that she was not as indifferent as she seemed.
Early in the evening it occurred to him that her slightly reckless
manner was assumed, but he saw that she was abandoning herself to
the growing excitement of the dance, as Sibley, her most frequent
partner, and others, were to the stronger excitement of liquor.
Observant mothers called away their daughters. Ladies, in whom the
instincts of true refined womanhood were in the ascendancy, looked
significantly at each other, and declined further invitations.
Van Berg had also withdrawn, but with his disposition to watch
manifestations of character in general, and of one present in
particular, he still stood at a parlor window looking on. The band
had just struck up a livelier waltz than usual, and Ida and Sibley
were whirling through the wide apartment as if treading on air;
but when, a few moments later, they circled near where he stood,
he saw upon the young man's face an expression of earthiness and
grossness that was anything but ethereal. Indeed so unmistakably
wanton was the look which Sibley bent upon his companion, whose
heaving bosom he clasped against his won, that the artist frowned
darkly at him, and felt his hand tingling to strike the fellow a
She, looking up, caught his frown, and in her egotism and excitement,
thought it meant only jealousy of the man she had so favored during
"Perhaps he is more deeply smitten than I imagined, and I can punish
him yet," was the hope that entered her mind; and this prospect
added to the elation and excitement which had mastered her.
"Can she know how that scoundrel is looking at her? If I believed
it I'd leave her marvellous features to their fate," was the thought
that passed through his mind.
In his perturbation he walked down the long piazza. Happening to
glance into one of the small private parlors, he witnessed a scene
that made a very sharp contrast with the one he had just left.
An old white-haired, white-bearded man, a well-known guest of the
house, reclined in an easy-chair with an expression of real enjoyment
on his face. His aged wife sat near, knitting away as tranquilly
as if at home, while under the gas-jet was Miss Burton, reading a
newspaper, with two or three others upon her lap. She had evidently
found the old gentleman trying to glean, with his feeble sight,
the evening journals that had been brought from the city, and
was lending him her young eyes and mellow voice for an hour. The
picture struck him so pleasantly that he took out his notebook and
indicated the fortunate grouping within, for a future sketch.
"It would make some difference in a man's future," he muttered,
"whether this maiden or the one in yonder roue's embrace were
installed as the mistress of his home."
Going back into the main hallway he met Stanton coming down the
stairs with his face unusually flushed.
"Oh, Van," he cried, "where have you been keeping yourself? Come
with me and have some of the best brandy you ever tasted."
"Where is it?"
"In Sibley's room. He brought up a couple of bottles of the prime
old article, and has invited all his friends to make free with it."
"I'm not one of his friends."
"Oh well, you're my friend! What's the odds? A swig of such brandy
will do you good, so come along."
"Come out on the piazza, Stanton. I want to show you something."
"Can't you wait a few moments? I want to have a whirl in this
jolly waltz before it's over."
"No; then it will be too late. I won't keep you long," and Stanton
reluctantly followed him.
Van Berg understood his friend sufficiently well to know that
any ordinary remonstrance would have no influence in his present
condition, and so sought to use a little strategy. Taking him to
the window of the small private parlor, he showed and explained to
him the pretty and quiet scene within.
Stanton's manner changed instantly, and he seemed in no haste to
return to the waltz.
"I thought it would strike you as a pretty picture, as it did me,"
remarked Van Berg, quietly; "and I also thought that after seeing
it you would not want any more of Sibley's brandy. It would choke
"You are right, Van. I fear I've taken too much of it already.
I'm glad you showed me this quiet picture--it makes me wish I were
a better man."
"I like that, Ik; I always knew you had plenty of good metal in you.
Now I don't want to be officious, but I would not let a cousin of
mine dance with Sibley any longer if I could prevent it without
attracting attention. However generous he may have been with his
brandy, he has had more than his share himself."
"Thank you, Van; I understand you. By Jove, I'll try the same
tactics with her that you have with me. I'll bring her here and
show her a scene that has been to me like a quieting and restraining
A few moments later the waltz ceased, and Miss Mayhew came out on
the cool, dusky piazza, leaning on Sibley's arm. Stanton joined
her and said:
"Ida, come with me; I wish to speak with you a moment. Mr. Sibley,
please excuse us."
"Indeed, Mr. Stanton," said Sibley in tones of maudlin sentiment,
"you are cruel to deprive me of your cousin's society even for a
moment. I'll forgive you this once, but never again." And then
he availed himself of the opportunity to pay another visit to his
"Ida," said Stanton, "I want to show you a little picture that has
done me good."
But the young lady was in no mood for pictures or moralizing. Her
blood was coursing feverishly through her veins, her spirit had
been made reckless by the wilful violence that she was doing her
conscience, and also by her deep and growing dissatisfaction with
herself, that was like an irritating wound. She was therefore
prepared to resent any interruption to the whirl of excitement,
which gave her a kind of pleasure in the place of the happiness
that was impossible to one in her condition.
"You call that a pretty picture!" she said disdainfully; "Miss
Burton reading a newspaper to two stupid old people who ought to be
abed! A more humdrum scene I never saw. Truly, both your breath
and your words show that you have been drinking too much. But
you need not expect me to share in your tipsy sentiment over Miss
Burton. Did Mr. Van Berg ask you to show me this matter-of-fact
group which, in his artistic jargon, you call a picture?"
"If he had, he showed you a greater kindness than you deserved."
"Yes, and a greater one than I asked or wished from him."
"Then you are going back to dance with Sibley?"
"Yes, I am."
"The prospects are, that you and Mrs. Chints and a couple of
half-tipsy men will soon have it all to yourselves. I suppose the
old adage about 'birds of a feather' swill still hold good. I was
in hopes, however, that even if you had no appreciation of what
was beautiful, refined, and unselfish in another woman's action,
you still had some self-respect, or at least some fear of ridicule,
left. Since you won't listen to me, I shall warn your mother.
If Sibley and two or three others drink much more, Burleigh will
interfere for the credit of his house."
"You have been drinking as well as Mr. Sibley."
"Well, thanks to Van Berg, I stopped before I lost my head."
"From your maudlin sentiment over Miss Burton, I think you have
lost your head and heart both."
"Go; dance with Sibley, then," he said in sudden irritation; "dance
with him till you and Mrs. Chints between you have to hold him on
his feet. Dance with him till Burleigh sends a couple of colored
waiters to take him from your embrace and carry him off to bed."
She made a gesture of rage and disgust, and went straight to her
Sibley, in the mean time, paid a lengthened visit to his brandy,
and having already passed the point of discretion, drank recklessly.
When he descended the stairs again to look for his partner, his
step was uncertain and his utterance thick.
Stanton gave Mr. Burleigh a hint that the young man needed looking
after, and the adroit host, skilled in managing all kinds of people
and in every condition, induced him to return to his room, under
the pretence of wishing to taste his fine old brandy, and then kept
him there until the lethargic stage set in as the result of his
excess. And so an affair, which might have created much scandal,
was smuggled out of sight and knowledge as far as possible. Mrs.
Mayhew had been so occupied with whist that she had not observed
that anything was amiss, and merely remarked that "Mr. Sibley's
ball had ended earlier than usual."
Chapter XVI. Out Among Shadows.
The expression of Ida Mayhew's face was cold and defiant on the
following day. She did not attend church with her mother, but remained
all the morning in her room. She not only avoided opportunities
of speaking to Van Berg when coming down to dinner and during the
afternoon, but she would not even look towards him; and her manner
towards her cousin also was decidedly icy.
"I don't know what is the matter with Ida," her mother remarked to
Stanton; "she has acted so strangely of late."
"It's the old complaint, I imagine," he replied with a shrug.
"Oh, well! she's no worse than other pretty, fashionable girls,"
said Miss Mayhew, carelessly.
Stanton, in his anger on the previous evening, had not spoken of
his cousin to Van Berg in a very complimentary way; but the artist
remembered that the young man himself was not in a condition to
form either a correct or charitable judgment; while the fact that
Ida, as a result of his remonstrance, had gone directly to her room,
was in her favor. He still resolved to suspend his final opinion
and not to give over his project until satisfied that her nature
contained too much alloy to permit of its success. He paid no heed
therefore to her coldness of manner; and when at last meeting her
face to face on the piazza Sunday evening, he lifted his hat as
politely as possible.
Sibley did not appear until the arrival of the dinner hour. He was
under the impression that he had gone a little too far the night
before, and tried to make amends by an immaculate toilet and an
urbane yet dignified courtesy towards all whom he knew. Society
very readily winks at the indiscretions of wealthy young men.
Moreover, he had been inveigled back to his room before his condition
had been observed to any extent. There fore he found himself so
well received in the main, that he soon fully recovered his wonted
Mrs. Mayhew was particularly gracious; and Ida, who at first had
been somewhat distant towards him as well as all others, concluded
that she had not sufficient cause to be ashamed of him, and so
it came about that they spent much of the afternoon and evening
together. She did not fail to note, however, that when he approached
Van Berg he received a cold and curt reception. Was jealousy
the cause of this? In her elation and excitement on the previous
evening, she had been inclined to think so, but now she feared that
it was because the artist despised the man; and in her secret soul
she was compelled to admit that he had reason to despise him--yes,
to despise them both. She felt, with bitter humiliation, that his
superiority was not assumed but real.
More than once before the day closed, she found herself contrasting
the two men. The one had not had a shred of true worth about him.
Stanton, to teaze her and to justify his interference, had told her
that Mr. Burleigh had been compelled to take charge of her companion
in order to prevent him from disgracing himself and the house.
Although too proud to acknowledge it, she still saw plainly that
it was her cousin's interference, and indirectly the intervention
of the artist that had kept her from being involved in that disgrace.
Even her perverted mind recognized that one was a gentleman, and
the other--well, "a fashionable young man," as she would phrase
it. The one, as a friend, would shield her from every detracting
breath; the other, if given a chance, would inevitably tumble into
some slough of infamy himself, and drag her after him with reckless
Still, with something like self-loathing, she saw that Sibley was
her natural ally and companion, and that she had far more in common
with him than with the artist. She could easily maintain with him
the inane chatter of their frivolous life, but she could not talk
with the artist, nor he with her, without an effort that was as
humiliating as it was apparent.
What was more, she saw that all others classed her with Sibley,
and that the people in the house who were akin to the artist in
character and high breeding, stood courteously but coolly aloof
from both herself and her mother. She also felt that she could
not lay all the blame of this upon her poor father. Indeed, since
the previous miserable Sunday on which Van Berg had tried to win
Mr. Mayhew from his evil habit for one day at least, and she had
thwarted his kindly intention, she had begun to feel that she and
her mother were the chief causes of his increasing degradation.
Others, she feared, and especially Van Berg, took the same view.
With such thoughts surging up in her mind and clouding her brow,
Sibley did not find her altogether the same girl that she had been
the evening before. Still, as has been said, he was her natural
ally, and she tried to second his efforts to re-establish a good
character and to keep up the appearance of fashionable respect.
Stanton was in something of a dilemma. He did not like Sibley,
and was ashamed of his recent excess; but having drank with him,
and so, in a sense, having accepted his hospitality, felt himself
obliged to be rather affable. He managed the matter by keeping out
of the way as far as possible, and was glad to remember that the
young man would depart in the morning. While scarcely acknowledging
the fact to himself, he was on the alert most of the day to find
an opportunity of enjoying a conversation with Miss Burton; but
she kept herself very much secluded. After attending church at a
neighboring village in the morning, she spent most of the afternoon
with Mrs. Burleigh, assisting her in the care of the cross baby.
Van Berg, much to Stanton's envy, found her as genial and cheery
as ever when they met at the table. He learned, from her manner
more than from anything she said, that the day and its associations
were sacred to her. She affected no solemnity and seemed under
no constraint, only her thought and bearing had a somewhat soberer
coloring, like the shading of a picture. To his mind it was but
another example of her entire reticence in regard to herself, while
her smiling face seemed as open as the light.
But as she came out from supper the children pounced upon her,
clamorous for a story. She assented on condition that Mr. Burleigh
would give them the use of one of the private parlors--a stipulation
speedily complied with; and soon she had nearly all the small folk
in the hotel gathered round her.
"I shall stand without, like the 'Peri at the gate,'" Stanton found
a chance to say.
"The resemblance is very striking," was her smiling reply; but for
some reason he winced under it and wished he had not spoken.
When she dismissed her little audience there were traces of tears
on some of the children's faces, proving that she could tell
a pathetic, as well as a jolly story; and Van Berg observed with
interest how the power of her magnetism kept them lingering near
her even after she entered the parlor and sought a quiet nook near
the old gentleman and lady to whom she had been reading the previous
Mrs. Chints, who liked to be prominent on all occasions, very
proudly felt that sacred music would be the right thing on Sabbath
evening, and, with a few of hew own ilk, was giving a florid and
imperfect rendering of that peculiar style of composition that
suggests a poor opera while making a rather shocking and irreverent
use of words taken from Scriptures.
Van Berg and Stanton, who were out on the piazza, were ready to
grate their teeth in anguish, finding the narcotic influence of
the strongest cigar no match for Mrs. Chints's voice.
Suddenly that irrepressible lady spied Miss Burton, and she swooped
down upon her in a characteristic manner, exclaiming:
"You can't decline; you needn't say you don't; I've heard you. If
you sing half as well for us as you did to Mrs. Burleigh's baby
this afternoon, we'll be more than satisfied. Now come; one sweet
Stanton craned his neck from where he sat to see the result of this
onslaught, but Miss Burton shook her head.
"Well, then, won't you join in with us?" persisted Mrs. Chints.
"Sacred music is so lovely and appropriate on Sunday night."
"You are right in that respect, Mrs. Chints. If it is the wish of
those present I think some simple hymns in which we can all join
might be generally enjoyed."
"Now, my dear, you have just hit it," said the old lady at her
side. "I, for one, would very much like to hear some simple music
like that we had when I was young."
The old lady's preference was taken up and echoed on every side.
Indeed the majority were ready for any change from Mrs. Chints's
"Well, my dear," said the lady, "it shall be as you say." Then she
added, "sotto voce," with a complacent nod, "I suppose the music
we were giving is beyond the masses, but if you could once hear
Madame Skaronni render it in our choir at the Church of the (something
that sounded like 'pica-ninny,' as by Mrs. Chints pronounced) you
would wish for no other. Will you play, my dear?"
"Ah, yes, please do," exclaimed some of the children who had gathered
"In mercy to us poor mortals for whom there is no escape save going
to bed, please comply," whispered the old lady in her ear.
The light in Miss Burton's eyes was mirthful rather than sacred as
she rose and went to the piano, and at once an air of breezy and
interested expectancy took the place of the previous bored expression.
"Come, Van," said Stanton, throwing away his cigar, "we'll need
your tenor voice. We must stand by that little woman. The Chints
tribe have incited to profanity long enough, and shall make the
night hideous no more. If we could only drown them instead of their
voices, what a mercy it would be!" and the young men went around
and stood in the open door near the piano.
"You are to sing," said Miss Burton, with a decided little nod at
"We intend to," replied Stanton, "since you are to accompany us."
She started "Coronation," that spirited and always inspiriting
battle song of the church--jubilant and militant--a melody that is
also admirably adapted for blending rough and inharmonious voices.
For a moment her own voice was like that of a singing lark, mounting
from its daisy covert; or rather, like the flow of a silver rill
whose music was soon lost, however, in the tumultuous rush of other
tributary streams of sound; still, the general effect was good, and
the people enjoyed it. By the time the second stanza was reached
the majority were singing with hearty good-will, the children
gathering near and joining in with delight.
Other familiar and old-fashioned hymns followed, and then one and
another began to ask for their favorites. Fortunately Mrs. Chints's
knowledge of sacred music was limited, and so she retired on the
laurels of having called Miss Burton out, informing half the company
of the fact with an important nod; and in remembrance of this fact
they were inclined to forgive her the anguish she had personally
Mrs. Burleigh, who had stolen into the parlor for a little while
that she might enjoy the singing, remembered that she had a pile
of note-books that had grown dusty on a shelf since the baby had
furnished the music of the household. These were brought, and
higher and fuller musical themes were attempted, until the singers
dwindled to a quartet composed of a lady who had a fair soprano
voice, Miss Burton, Stanton and Van Berg. Their selections, however,
continued truly sacred in character, thus differing radically from
the florid style that Mrs. Chints had introduced.
The sweet and penetrating power of Miss Burton's voice could now
be distinguished. For some reason it thrilled and touched its
hearers in a way that they could not account for. The majority
present at once realized that she was not, and never could become,
a great singer. But within the compass of her voice, she could
pronounce sacred words in a manner that send them home to the hears
of the listeners like rays that could both cheer and melt.
At last she rose from the piano, remarking that there were other
musicians present; and no amount of persuasion could induce her to
remain there any longer.
"Perhaps you gentlemen play," she said, turning to the young men
who were about to depart. "A man's touch and leadership is so much
more decisive and vigorous than a lady's!"
"Mr. Van Berg plays very well indeed, considering his youth and
diffidence!" remarked Stanton.
"And he has been taking advantage of a defenceless woman all this
time! Mr. Van Berg, if you do not wish to lose your character
utterly, you must take my place at the piano."
"I admit," he replied, "that I have taken more pleasure than you
will believe in your in your contribution to our evening's enjoyment,
but rather than lose your good opinion I will attempt to play or
sing anything you dictate, even though I put every one in the parlor
to flight, with their fingers in their ears."
"And you fear my taste will impose on you some such blood-curdling
combination of sounds? Thank you."
"Now, Van, you have taught us what unconditional surrender means.
Miss Burton, ask him to play and sing some selections from the
Oratorio of the Messiah."
"Are you familiar with that?" she asked, with a sudden lighting up
of her face.
"Somewhat so, only as an amateur can be; but I see, from your
expression, that you are."
"I've contributed my share this evening," she said, decisively.
"Please give us some selections from the Oratorio."
"Lay your command, then, on Stanton also. There's a part that we
have sung together as a duet occasionally, although it is not 'so
nominated in the bond,' or score, rather."
"If Mr. Stanton does not stand by his friend, then he should be
left to stand by himself."
"In the corner, I suppose you mean. But do not leave, Miss Burton.
If you do not stand by Mr. Van Berg and sing with him the duet that
begins with the words--
'O death! where is thy sting?'
you will deprive us all of the chief pleasure of the evening, and
it's not in your nature to do that."
"Please, please do, Miss Burton," cried a score of voices.
"You know nothing about my nature, sir. I assure you that I can
be a veritable dragon. But out of regard for Mr. Van Berg's 'youth
and diffidence' I will sustain him."
Van Berg's voice was not strong, but he sang with taste and good
expression. It suggested refinement and culture rather than deep,
repressed feeling, as had been the case in Miss Burton's singing.
His style would be admired, and would not give much occasion for
criticism, but, as a general thing, it would not stir and move the
heart. Still, the audience gave close and pleased attention.
Ida Mayhew, who all this time had been out on the piazza and but
half listening to Mr. Sibley's compliments in her attention to the
scenes at the piano, now rose and came to one of the open windows,
where, while hidden from the singer, she could hear more distinctly.
Her features did not indicate that she shared in the pleasure
expressed on the other faces within, and her gathering frown was
deepened by the shadow of the window frame.
"You do not enjoy it!" said Mr. Sibley, complacently.
"No," she answered, laconically; but for reasons he little understood.
"Now you show your taste, Miss Mayhew."
"I fear I do. Hush!" But when Van Berg's solo ended, she breathed
a deep sigh.
Then Stanton's rich, but uncultivated bass voice joined in the
melody. Still the effect was better tahn would have been expected
from amateurs. After a few moments, Stanton stood back and Miss
Burton and Van Berg sang together; then every one leaned forward
and listened with a breathless hush. Her voice seemed to pervade
his with sould and feeling that had been lacking hitherto.
As the last rich chords died away, the strongest expression of
pleasure were heard on every side; but Ida Mayhew stepped abruptly
out into the dusk of the piazza with clenched hands and compressed
"'Peste!'" she exclaimed under her breath. "What a contrast between
Sibley and myself last evening and these two people to-night! What
a worse contrast there might have been if Ik had not interfered in
time! I have a good voice, but the guests of the house have not
even thought of me in connection with this evening's entertainment.
I am associated only with the Sibley style of amusements."
Chapter XVII. New Forces Developing.
After Mr. Van Berg and Miss Burton finished the selection from the
Oratorio mentioned in the previous chapter, the old white-haired
gentleman at whose side the latter had been sitting in the earlier
part of the evening rose and said:
"I want to thank all the singers, and especially the young lady
and gentleman now at the piano, not only for the pleasure they have
given us all, but also for the comforting and sustaining thoughts
that the sacred words have suggested. My enjoyments in this world
are but few, and are fast diminishing; and I know that they will
not refuse an old man's request that they close this service of song
by each singing along some hymn that will strengthen our faith in
the unseen Friend who watches over us all."
Van Berg looked at Miss Burton.
"We cannot refuse such an appeal," she said.
"I fear that I shall seem a hypocrite in complying," Van Berg
answered, in a low tone. "How can I make a distinctly recognized
effort to strengthen faith in others when lacking faith myself."
Her eyes flashed up to his, in sudden and strong approval. "I
like that," she said. "It always gives me a sense of security and
safety when I meet downright honesty. In no way can you better
strengthen our faith than by being perfectly true. You give me a
good example of sincerity," she added slowly, "and perhaps my hymn
will teach submission more than faith. While I am singing it you
may find something that will not express more than you feel."
In her sweet, low, yet penetrating voice, that now had a pathos which
melted every heart, she sang the following words, which, like the
perfume of crushed violets, have risen in prayer from many bruised
and broken sprits:
"My God, my father, while I stray
Far from my home on life's rough way,
Oh teach me from my heart to say,
Thy will be done.
What though in lonely grief I sigh
For friends beloved no longer nigh;
Submissive still would I reply,
Thy will be done.
Renew my will from day to day;
Blend it with Thine, and take away
Whate'er now makes it hard to say,
Thy will be done.
Then when on earth I breathe no more,
The prayer oft mixed with tears before,
I'll sing upon a happier shore,
Thy will be done."
Stanton, warm-hearted and genuine with all his faults, retired well
into the shadow of the hallway and looked at the singer through
the lenses of sympathetic tears.
"Poor orphan girl," he muttered. "What a villain a man would be
who could purpose harm to you!"
Van Berg, in accordance with his cooler and less demonstrative
nature, kept his position at her side, but he regarded her with
an expression of respect and interest that caused Ida Mayhew, who
was watching from her covert near, a sense of pain and envy that
surprised her by its keenness.
With a sudden longing which indicated that the wish came direct
from from her heart, she sighed:
"What would I not give to see him look at me with that expression
on his face!"
Then, startled by her own thought, so vivid had it been, she looked
around as if in fear it was apparent to her companion.
His eyes were in truth bent upon her, and in the dusk they seemed
like livid coals. A moment later, as with a shrinking sense of
fear she furtively looked at him again, his eyes suggested those of
some animal of prey that is possessed only with the wolfish desire
to devour, caring for the victim only as it may gratify the ravenous
He leaned forward and whispered in her ear:
"Miss Ida, you do not know how strangely, how temptingly beautiful
you are to-night. One might well peril his soul for such beauty
"Hush," she said imperiously, and with a repelling gesture, she
stepped further into the light towards the singers.
"Then, when on earth I breathe no more," sang Miss Burton.
The thought was to the heart of the unhappy listener like the touch
of ice to the hand. There was a kindling light of hope in Miss
Burton's face, and something in her tone that indicated the courage
of an unfaltering trust as she sang the closing lines:
"I'll sing upon a happier shore,
Thy will be done."
But the words brought a deeper despondency to Ida Mayhew. In
bitterness she asked herself, "What chance is there for me to reach
'that happier shore,' with the tempter at my side and everything
in the present and past combining to drag me down?"
"There, thank heaven 'meetin's over,'" whispered Sibley, as Miss
Burton rose from the piano. "I'm sick of all this pious twaddle,
and would a thousand-fold rather listen to the music of your voice
out under the trees."
"You 'thank heaven'!" she repeated with a reckless laugh. "I'm
inclined to think, Mr. Sibley, from the nature of your words, you
named the wrong locality."
The answering look he gave her indicated that she puzzled him.
She had not seemed to-day like the shallow girl who had hitherto
accepted of his more innocent compliments as if they were sugar-plums,
and merely raised her finger in mock warning at such as contained
a spice of wickedness and boldness. There seemed a current of
thought in her mind which he could not fathom, and whether it were
carrying her away or toward him he was not sure. He understood and
welcomed the element of recklessness, but did not like the way in
which she looked at Van Berg, nor did it suit his purposes that
she should hear so much of what he characterized as "pious twaddle."
He whispered again bolder words than he had ever spoken to her
"I wish no better heaven than the touch of your hand and the light
of your eyes. See, the moon is rising; come with me, for this is
the very witching hour for a ramble."
She turned upon him a startled look, for he seemed the very embodiment
of temptation. But she only said coldly:
"Hush! Mr. Van Berg is about to sing," and she stepped so far into
the lighted room that the artist saw her.
When Miss Burton rose from the piano she did not return to her
seat in the parlor, but stood in the shadow of the door-way leading
into the hall. The thought of her hymn had come so directly from
her heart, that her eyes were slightly moist with an emotion that
was more plainly manifest on many other faces. The old gentleman
who had asked her to sing had taken off his spectacles and was
openly wiping his eyes.
Stanton, ashamed to have her see the feeling she had evoked,
turned his back upon her and slowly walked down the corridor. She
misunderstood his act and thought it caused by indifference or
dislike for the sentiment she had expressed. He had seemed to her
thus far only a superficial man of the world, and this act struck
her as characteristic. But beyond this passing impression she
did not give him a thought, and turned, with genuine interest, to
listen to Van Berg who had said to her:
"I remember a few simple verses which have no merit save that they
express what I wish rather than what I am."
With much more feeling, and therefore power, than was his custom,
he sang as follows:
"I would I knew Thee better--
That trust could banish doubt;
I wish that from 'the letter'
Thy Spirit might shine out.
I wish that heaven were nearer--
That earth were more akin
To the home that should be dearer
Than the one so marred by sin.
I wish that deserts dreary
Might blossom as the rose,
That souls, despairing, weary,
Might smile and find repose."
Before singing the next stanza he could not forbear looking to see
if Miss Mayhew were listening, and thus it happened that his glance
gave peculiar emphasis to the thought expressed. She was looking
at him with an intensity of expression that he did not understand.
Nothing that he did escaped her, and the quick flash of his eyes
in her direction unintentionally gave the following words the force
and pointedness of an open rebuke;
"I wish that outward beauty
Were the mirror of the heart,
That purity and duty
Supplanted wily art."
He did not see that with a sudden flame of scarlet in her face she
stepped back on the dusky piazza as abruptly as if she had received
a blow. Had he done so, he might not have sung as effectively the
remaining verses. After the first confused moment of shame and
resentment passed, she paused only long enough to note with a sense
of relief that others had not seen or made any such application of
his words as she believed he had intended, and then she took Mr.
Sibley's arm and walked away, leaving the remaning two verses
"I wish that all were better
And nearer to their God--
That evil's broken fetter
Were buried with His rod;
That love might last forever,
And we, in future, find
There is no power to sever
The strong and true in mind."
As he sang the last verse there was also a rapid change
in the expression of Miss Burton's face. There was something of
her old pallor that has been mentioned before. She looked at him
questioningly a moment as if to see if he were consciously making
an allusion that touched her very nearly, and then, seemingly
overcome by some sudden emotion that she would gladly hide, she
quickly vanished down the dimly lighted hallway, and was seen no
more until she came down to breakfast the following morning, as
smiling and cheery as ever.
"Confound you, Van," said Stanton, as the artist escaped from the
thanks of the audience into the hall, "What did you put in that last
verse for? You made her think of seeing her dead friends again,
and so she was in no mood to speak to us poor mortals who are still
plodding on in this 'vale of tears.' I'd give my ears for a quiet
chat with her to-night. By Jove, I never was so stirred up before,
and could turn Christian, Mohammedan, Buddhist, or anything else,
if she asked me to."
"In either case, Ik," said Van Berg, "your worship would be the
same, I imagine, and would never rise higher than the priestess."
"Curse it all," exclaimed Stanton impetuously, "I feel to-night as
if that were higher than I can ever rise. I never was afraid of
a woman before; but no 'divinity' ever 'hedged a king' like that
which fills me with an indescribable awe when I approach this
unassuming little woman who usually seems no more formidable than
a flickering sunbeam. I agree with you now. She has evidently
had some deep experience in the past that gives to her character
a power and depth that we only half understand. I wish I knew her
"Good-night," said Van Berg, a little abruptly; "I think that
after this evening's experience, neither of us is in the mood for
Stanton looked after him with a lowering brow and muttered: "Is
he so sensitive on this subject? By Jove. I'm sorry! I fear
we must become rivals, Van. And yet," he added with a despairing
gesture, "what chance would I have with him against me?"
"I could not hear distinctly," Sibley had remarked as Ida took
his arm and walked away from her post of observation. "Were you
disgusted with his pious wail on general principles, or did something
in his theology offend you?"
"It's enough that I was not pleased," she replied briefly.
"Little wonder. I'm surprised you stood it so long. Van Berg and
Stanton are nice fellows to lead a conventicle. I think I'll take
a hand at it myself next Sunday evening, and certainly would with
your support. I'll say nothing of the singer, but if you will go
with me to the rustic seat in yonder shady walk, I'll sing you a
song that I know will be more to your taste than any you have heard
"Please excuse me, Mr. Sibley; I'm afraid of the night air."
"You are unusually prudent," he said, a little tauntingly.
"Which proves that I possess at least one good quality," she replied.
"Perhaps if Mr. Van Berg asked you to go you would take the risk."
"Perhaps I might," she admitted, half unconsciously and from the
mere force of habit, giving the natural answer of a coquette.
"He had better not cross my path," said Sibley, with sudden
"Come, come!" replied Miss Mayhew, with a careless laugh, "let's
have no high tragedy. I'm in no mood for it to-night, and you
have no occasion for alarm. If he crosses your path he will step
daintily over it at right angles."
At that moment Van Berg came out on the piazza. Although he could
not hear her words, her laugh and tones jarred unpleasantly on his
"Yonder is a genuine affinity," he muttered, "which I was a fool
to think I could break up;" and with a slight contemptuous gesture
he turned on his heel and went to his room.
"I cannot altogether understand you this evening, Miss Mayhew,"
said Sibley, with some resentment in his tone.
"You are not to blame for that, Mr. Sibley, for I do not understand
myself. I have not felt well to-day, and so had better say
But before she could leave him he seized her hand and exclaimed,
in his soft, insinuating tones:
"That then is the only trouble between us. Next Saturday evening
I shall find you your old charming self?"
"Perhaps," was her unsatisfactory answer.
With a step that grew slower and heavier every moment, she went
to her room, turned up the light, and looked fixedly at herself in
"I wish that outward beauty
Were the mirror of the heart,"
she repeated inaudibly, and the her exquisite lip curled in
"Ida, what IS the matter with you?" drawled her mother, looking
through the open door-way of her adjacent room. "You act as if
you were demented."
"Why did you make me what I am?" she exclaimed, turning upon her
mother in a sudden passion.
"Good gracious! what are you?" ejaculated that matter-of-fact lady.
"I'm as good as you are--as good as our set averages, I suppose,"
she answered in a weary, careless tone. "Good night;" and she
closed and locked her door.
"Oh, pshaw!" said Mrs. Mayhew, petulantly; "those hymns have made
her out of sorts with herself and everything. They used to stir
me up in the same way. Why can't people learn to perform their
religious duties properly and then let the matter rest;" and with
a yawn she retired at peace with herself and all the world.
Ida threw herself on a lounge and looked straight before her with
that fixed, vacant stare which indicates that nothing is seen save
by the eye of the mind.
"Father's drunk to-night," she moaned; "I know it as surely as if
I saw him. I also know that I'm in part to blame for it. Could
outward beauty mask a blacker heart than mine? It does not mask
it from him who sang those words," and she buried her face in her
hands and sobbed, until, exhausted and disheartened, she sough such
poor rest and respite as a few hours of troubled sleep could bring.
Chapter XVIII. Love Put to Work.
On the following day there was the usual bustle of change and
departure that is characteristic of a large summer resort on Monday
morning. Stanton found Mrs. Mayhew very ready to occupy the seats
he had obtained, and all the more so from his statement of the fact
that several others had spoken for them.
"Ida, my dear," called her mother; "come here, I've good news for
you. Ik has got us out of that odious corner of the dining-room,
and secured seats for us at Mr. Van Berg's table."
"I wish no seat there," she said decisively.
"Oh, its all arranged, my dear; and a good many others want the
seats, but Ik was too prompt."
"I'll stay where I am," said Ida, sullenly.
"And have every one in the house asking why?" added Stanton,
provokingly. "Mr. Van Berg treats you as a gentleman should. Why
cannot you act like a lady toward him? If I were you I would not
carry my preferences for the Sibley style of fellows so far that
I could not be civil to a man like my friend."
"You misjudge me," cried Ida, passionately.
"You have a strange way of proving it. All that is asked of you is
to sit at the same table with a gentleman who has won the respect
and admiration of every one in the hotel, whose society is peculiarly
agreeable to your mother and myself, and who has also shown unusual
courtesy towards you ever since he learned who you were. What
else can I think--what else can others think, than that your taste
leans so decidedly to the Sibley style that you cannot even be
polite to a man of high culture and genuine worth?"
"You are too severe, Ik," said Mrs. Mayhew. "For some reason that
I cannot fathom, Ida does not like this artist; and yet I think
myself that she would subject herself to very unpleasant remarks
if she made any trouble about sitting at the same table with him."
"Can you not see," retorted Ida, irritably, "that Ik has not
considered us at all, but only himself? He wishes to be near Miss
Burton, and without giving us any chance to object, has made all
the arrangements so that we must either comply or else be the talk
of the house. It's just a piece of his selfishness," she concluded
with tears of vexation in her eyes.
"Oh, come Ida!" said her mother coaxingly, "I can see only a mole-hill
in this matter, and I wouldn't make a mountain out of it. As far
as I am concerned, I should enjoy the change very much, and, as you
say, the affair has gone too far now to make objection. I do not
intend that either you or myself shall be the subject of unpleasant
And so the matter was settled, but Ida's coldness and constraint,
when they all met at dinner, very clearly indicated that the change
had been made without her consent. Van Berg addressed her affably
two or three times, but received brief and discouraging answers.
"Your cousin evidently is not pleased with the new arrangement you
have brought about. I cannot see what I have done of late to vex
"I'll tell you the trouble. You offend her by not being the
counterpart of Mr. Sibley," said Stanton, irritably.
Van Berg's brow darkened. "Do you think," he asked in a meaning
tone, "that she understands what kind of a man he is?"
"Oh, she knows that he can dance, flirt, and talk nonsense, and
she asks for nothing more and thinks of nothing further. I'm out
of patience with her."
Stanton's words contained the most plausible explanation of Ida's
conduct that occurred to Van Berg. The episode in the stage had
made them acquainted, and her preconceived prejudice and hostility
had been so far removed as to permit a certain degree of social
companionship, whose result would now seem only increased dislike
and distaste. As he supposed she would express herself, "he was
not of her style." Had she not spent the greater part of Sunday
afternoon and evening with Sibley? What other conclusion was
there save that he was "of her style," congenial both in thought
and character! And yet he still refused to entertain the belief
that she recognized in him more than a fashionable man of the world.
If only as the result of the pique originating on the evening of
the concert, Ida Mayhew had stood aloof from him, he could hope to
remove this early prejudice by better acquaintance. But if fuller
acquaintance increased her aversion, then he must believe that
the defects in her character were radical, inwrought through the
whole web and woof of her nature. He could not assume the "Sibley
style" if he would, and would not if he could, were her beauty a
hundred-fold greater, were that possible.
He was fast coming to the conclusion, therefore, that he must abandon
the project which had so fascinated him, and whose success had so
strongly kindled his imagination. And yet he did so reluctantly,
very regretfully, chafing as only the strong-willed do, when
confronted and thwarted by that which is only apparently impossible,
and which they still feel might and ought to be accomplished.
"I feel as the old alchemists must have done," he often thought.
"Here is a base metal. Why can I not transmute it into gold?"
But as the conviction of his impotence grew upon him he felt something
like resentment toward the one who had thwarted his purpose; and so
it naturally happened that when they met again at the supper-table,
his cool and indifferent manner corresponded with that of Miss Mayhew
to a degree that gave her a deeper pain than she could understand.
"Why should she care?" she asked herself a hundred times that
evening. But the unpleasant truth hourly grew more plain to her
that she did care.
Stanton and her mother quietly ignored her "foolish pique," as
they termed it. In truth the former was so preoccupied with Miss
Burton, and with jealousy of his friend, that he had few thoughts
for anything else.
He admitted to himself that he had never before been so thoroughly
fascinated and awakened; and it was in accordance with his
pleasure-loving, self-indulgent nature to drift on this shining
tide withersoever it might carry him.
But with a growing feeling of disquietude he saw that Van Berg
also was deeply interested in Miss Burton, and, what was worse, he
thought he detected an answering interest on her part.
Occasionally, when the artist's face was turned away so that she
obtained a good profile view of it, Stanton observed her looking
at him with an expression which both puzzled and troubled him. She
seemed to forget everything and every one, and to gaze for a moment
with a wistful, longing intensity that he would give his fortune
for were the glance directed toward himself. And yet when Van Berg
addressed her, sought her society, met her suddenly, there was no
heightening of color, nor a trace of the "sweet confusion" that is
usually inseparable from a new and growing affection in a maiden's
Apart from this occasion, furtive, and wistful look during which
her cheeks would grow pale and she appear for the moment oblivious
of present surroundings, her manner toward the artist was as frank
and natural as toward any one else. It was evident that she liked
and respected him, but even his jealousy could not detect the
certainty of anything more.
But what was the tendency of Van Berg's mind toward her? That was
the question which troubled him more and more every day. From the
time of their parting on the previous Sabbath evening there had
been a growing reluctance on the part of each to speak of one who
so largely occupied the thoughts of both. The old jest and banter
about the "school ma'am" ceased utterly, and they mentioned her only
occasionally as "Miss Burton." The old frank confidence between
them diminished daily, and in their secret consciousness they began
to recognize the fact that they might soon become open rivals.
The attitude of Van Berg toward the young stranger who had so deeply
interested him from the first hour of their meeting, was peculiar
but characteristic. His reason approved of her. Never before
had he met a woman who had seemed endowed with so many attractive
qualities. She was not beautiful,--a cardinal virtue with him--but
her face often lighted up with something so near akin to beauty
as to leave little cause to regret its absence and the conviction
grew upon him that the spirit enshrined within the graceful and
fragile form was almost perfection itself.
It became clearer to him every day that some deep experience or
sorrow has so thoroughly refined away the dross of her nature as
to make her seem the embodiment of truth and purity. What though
she still maintained complete reticence as to the past, avoiding
in their conversation all allusion to herself, as far as possible;
he still, in his inmost soul, knew he could trust her, and that
while her smiling face, like the sunlit rippling surface of mountain
lakes not far away, might hide dark, silent depths, it concealed
He also felt that there was no occasion to imagine any deep mystery
to be part of her past history. The facts that she was poor and
orphaned suggested all the explanations needed, and he felt sure
that the sorrows she so sacredly and unselfishly shrouded from the
general view would be frankly revealed to the man who might win
the right to comfort and sustain her.
Could he win that right? Did he wish to win it? As day after day
passed he felt this question to be growing more and more vitally
He was not one he believed who, like Stanton, could be carried away
by a sudden and absorbing passion. In any and every case, reason,
judgment, and taste would offer their counsel, and their advice
would be carefully weighed. With increasing distinctness, this
cabinet within his own breast urged him to observe this maiden well
lest the chief opportunity of his life pass beyond recall.
And he did study her character carefully. Stanton, with the keen
pain of jealousy, and Ida Mayhew with a disquiet and sinking of
heart that she could not understand, noted that he very quietly
and unobtrusively sought her society. When she spoke, he listened.
When it was possible without attracting attention his eyes followed
her, and yet his conduct was governed so thoroughly by good taste
and chivalric regard for the lady herself, that only eyes rendered
penetrating by the promptings of the heart would have seen anything
more than the general friendliness which she inspired on every
Stanton, on the contrary, grew more undisguised and demonstrative
in his attentions, although he aimed to conceal his feeling under
the humorous and bantering style of address that was habitual with
him. The guests of the house were not very long in recognizing in
him an admirer of Miss Burton, but they imagined that his devotion
was caused more by a wish to while away his idle hours than from
any other motive; and it was also quite evident that the young lady
herself took the same view. She gave a light and humorous aspect
to everything she said, and permitted him scarcely an opportunity
for a solitary "tete-a-tete." In vain he placed his bays and buggy
at her disposal.
"I am social and gregarious in my tastes," she would reply, "and
need the exhilaration of a party to enjoy myself."
Thus Stanton was led to a course of action decidedly in contrast
with his past tendencies. He would attach his bays to a roomy
carriage, giving her a "carte-blanche" in making up the party if
she would be one of the number. He would perspire like a hero in
any boating excursion or picnic that she would originate; and thus
the fastidious and elegant fellow often found himself in unwonted
company, for, with an instinct peculiarly her own, she soon found
out the comparatively poor and neglected in the hotel, and appeared
to derive her chief pleasure in enlivening their dull days.
Quick-witted Stanton early learned that the surest way to winning
a smile from her was to be polite to people that, hitherto, he had
habitually ignored. To Miss Burton herself he made no secret of
the fact that his course was prompted only by a desire to please
her, but she smiling persisted in ascribing it all to his good-nature
and kindness of heart.
Chapter XIX. Man's Highest Honor.
Van Berg had not been very long in discovering that Miss Burton
had a ruling passion, and it seemed to him a rather unique one.
He was familiar with the many forms of self-seeking, common in
society; he knew of those who were devoted to literature, science,
or some favorite calling, as he was to his art; he had seen a few
who apparently so abounded in genial good-nature that they rarely
lost an opportunity of performing a kind act; and there were men
and women in the world who, he believed, had fully consecrated
themselves to the work of doing good from the purest and divinest
motives: but he did not remember of ever having met with one whose
whole thought appeared bent on disseminating immediate sunshine.
And yet this seemed true of Miss Burton. With admirable tact,
with a tireless patience, and an energy out of proportion in one
so fragile, she kept herself quietly and unobtrusively busy among
the miscellaneous people of the house. Her charity was wide enough
for all. Wherever she could discover gloom, despondency, dulness,
or pain, there she tried to shine like a sunbeam, as if that were
the primal law of her being. She rarely sought to "do good" in the
ordinary acceptance of the term; still more rarely did she speak
of her own personal faith; to cheer and to brighten appeared to
be her one constant impulse. It was evident that this had become
a kind of second nature in her now; but the thought occurred more
than once to Van Berg that she had adopted this course at first
to escape from herself and her own unhappy memories. Every day
increased the conviction that sorrow was the black, heavy soil that
produced this constant bloom of unselfish deeds.
Before the week was over she gave him special reason to believe
that this was true. They were walking up and down the piazza one
evening and had been talking with much animation on a subject of
mutual interest. But she proved that there was in her mind a deeper
and stronger current of thought than that which had been apparent.
As the duskiness increased, and as in their promenade their faces
were turned away from those who might have observed them, she said
a little abruptly and yet with tremulous hesitancy:
"Mr. Van Berg, does your philosophy teach you to believe, as you
sung, on Sabbath evening, that
'There is no power to sever
The strong and true in mind?'"
Before answering he turned to look at her. Her face seemed to
stand out from the gloom of the night with a light of its own, and
was so white and eager as to be almost spirit-like. His tones were
sad as he replied:
"I wish I could answer you otherwise than as I must, for the impulse to
say some words of comfort, which I feel you need, is very strong.
I only sang of what I wished on Sunday evening. I have little
philosophy, and still less of definite belief in regard to the
future life. While I am not a theoretic skeptic, all questions of
faith are to me so vague and incomprehensible that I am a practical
materialist, and live only in the present hour."
"But, Mr. Van Berg," she said, in a low tremulous tone, "can you
not understand that some people cannot live in the present hour,
try as they may? Oh, how desperately hard I try to do so! Can
you not imagine that something in one's past may make a future
necessary to save from despair? If I lost my hold on that future
I should go mad," she added in a whisper. "How can any materialistic
philosophy be true when it fails us and so bitterly disappoints us
in our need?"
"I do not say it is true," he replied, earnestly. "Indeed your
words and manner prove to me, as could no labored argument, what a
poor superficial thing it is. I feel, with the force of conviction,
that it can no more meet your need than could the husks which the
swine did eat."