Part 4 out of 10
"Since you were sincere, I will be also," she continued in the
same low tone, looking away from him into the dark cloudy sky. "As
the hymn I sung may have suggested to you, I have not got very far
beyond mere submission and hope. Something in my own soul as well
as in revelation tells me that there is a 'happier shore,' and I
am trying to reach it; but the way, too often, is like that sky,
utterly opaque and rayless."
"I regret more deeply than you can ever know, Miss Burton, that I
find nothing in my own knowledge or experience to help you. All
I can offer is my honest sympathy, and that you have had from the
first; for from the time of our first meeting the impression has
been growing upon me that your character had obtained its power
and beauty through some deep and sorrowful experience. But while
I am unable to give you any help, perhaps I can suggest a pleasant
thought from your own illustration. The black clouds yonder which
seem to you a true type of the shadows that have fallen across
your path, are, after all, but a film in the sky. The sun, and a
multitude of other luminous worlds, are shining beyond them in the
heavens. I would I had your chances of reaching a 'happier shore.'"
"That's a pretty sentiment," she said, shaking her head slowly;
"but those luminous worlds are a great way off, with cold and vast
reaches of space between them. Besides, a luminous world would
not do me one bit of good. I want---" she stopped abruptly with
something like a low sob. "There, there," she resumed hastily
dashing away a few tears. "I have occupied your thoughts too long
with my forlorn little self. I did not mean to show this weakness,
but have been betrayed into doing os, I think, because you impressed
me as being honest, and I thought that perhaps--perhaps your man's
reason might have thought of some argument or probably conjecture
relating to the subject that, for causes obvious to you, would be
naturally interesting to one so alone in the world as I am."
"I am sorry indeed that I never used my reason to so good a purpose,"
he replied; "and yet, as I said at first, these subjects have ever
seemed to me so above and beyond my reason that I have carelessly
given them the go-by. My profession has wholly absorbed me since
I have been capable of anything worth the name of thought, and the
world, toward which your mind is turning, is so large and vague
that I cannot even follow you, much less guide."
She sighed: "It is indeed 'large and vague.'" Then she added in
firm, quiet tones: "Mr. Van Berg, please forget what I have said.
The weak must show their weakness at times in spite of themselves,
and your kindness and sincerity have beguiled me into inflicting
myself upon you."
"You ask that which is impossible, Miss Burton," he replied earnestly.
"I cannot forget what you have said, nor do I wish to. I need not
assure you, however, that I regard your confidence as sacred as if
it came from my own sister. Will you also let me say that I never
felt so honored before in my life as I have to-night, in the fact
that I seemed to your woman's intuition worthy of your trust."
They were now turned towards the light that streamed dimly from
one of the windows. She looked up at him with a bright, grateful
smile, but she apparently saw something in his eager face and manner
which checked her smile as suddenly as if he had been an apparition.
she gave him her hand, saying hastily, "Good-night, Mr. Van Berg;
I thank you. I--I--do not feel very well," and she passed swiftly
to a side door and disappeared.
Chapter XX. A Wretched Secret that Must be Kept.
The interview described in the previous chapter touched Van Berg
deeply, but its close puzzled him. Under the influences of his
aroused feelings had his face expressed more than mere sympathy?
Had her strong intuition, that was like a second sight, interpreted
his heart more clearly than he had been able to understand it himself
as yet? Reason and judgement, his privy council, had already begun
to advise him to win if possible this unselfish maiden, who with
a divine alchemy transmuted her shadows into sunshine for others,
and often suggested the thought, if she can do this in sorrow, how
inexpressibly happy she might make you and your aged father and
mother if you could first find out in some way how to make her
Indeed, so clear a case did these counsellors make out, that conscience
added her authoritative voice also, and assured him that he would
be false to himself and his future did he not, to the utmost, avail
himself and his future did he not, to the utmost, avail himself
of the opportunity of winning one whose society from the first had
been an inspiration to better thoughts and better living.
Until this evening his heart had remained sluggish. Sweet and
potent as her voice had been, it had not penetrated to the "holy
of holies" within his soul. But had not her low sad tones echoed
there to-night in the half involuntary confidence she had given
In his deep sympathy, in the answering feeling evoked by her strong
but repressed emotion, he thought his heart had been stirred to
its depths, and that henceforth its chief desire would be to banish
the sorrowful memories typified to her mind by the black clouds
above him. Had his face revealed this impulse of his heart before
he had been fully conscious of it himself? Was it an unwelcome
discovery, that she so hastily fled from it? Or had she been only
startled--her maidenly reserve shrinking from the first fore-shadowing
of the supreme request that she should unveil the mysteries of her
life to one who but now had been a stranger? He did not know. He
felt he scarcely understood her or himself; but he was conscious
of a hope that both might meet their happy fate in each other.
He leaned thus for a time absorbed in thought against a pillar where
she had left him, then sauntered with bowed head and preoccupied
manner to the main entrance, down the steps and out into the darkness.
He did not even notice that he passed Ida Mayhew, where she stood
among a group of gay chattering young people. Still less did he
know that she had been furtively watching his interview with Miss
Burton, and that when he passed her without a glance her face was
as pale as had been that of the object of his thoughts. But he
had not strolled very far down a gravelled path before she compelled
him to distinguish her reckless laugh and tones above all the
With an impatient gesture he muttered, "God made them both, I
suppose; and so there's another mystery."
As Van Berg's interest in Miss Burton had deepened, it had naturally
flagged toward the one whose marvelously fair features had first
caught his attention and now promised to be links in a chain
of causes that might produce effects little anticipated. He had
virtually abandoned the project of seeking to ennoble and harmonize
these features that suggested new possibilities of beauty to almost
every glance, for the reason that he not only believed there was
no mind to be awakened, but also because he had been led to think
the girl so depraved and selfish at heart that the very thought of
a larger, purer life was repugnant to her. He believed she disliked
and even detested him, not so much on personal grounds as because
he represented to her mind a class of ideas and a self-restraint
that were hateful. Circumstances had associated her in his mind
with Sibley, who thus cast a baleful shadow athwart even her beauty
and made it repulsive. Indeed the mocking perfection of her features
irritated him, and he began to make a conscious and persistent effort
not to look toward her. He now regarded his hope to illumine her
face from within, by delicate touches of mind, thought, and motive,
as vain as an attempt to carve the Venus of Milo out of mottled
pumice-stone. Still he did not regret to-night the freak of fancy
that had brought him to the Lake House, since it had led to his
meeting a woman who was to him a new and beautiful revelation of
the rarest excellence and grace.
But there was no such compensating outlook for poor Ida. To her,
his coming promised daily to result in increasing wretchedness.
From the miserable Sunday night on which she had sobbed herself
to sleep, the consciousness had continually grown clearer that she
could never find in her old mode of life any satisfying pleasure.
She had caught a glimpse of something so much better, that her
former world looked as tawdry as the mimic scenery of a second-rate
theatre. A genuine man, such as she had not seen or at least not
recognized before, had stepped out before the gilt and tinsel, and
the miserable shams were seen in contrast in their rightful character.
But, in bringing the revelation, it happened he had so deeply
wounded her pride, that she had assured herself, again and again,
she would hate his very name as long as she lived. Did she hate him
as she saw him absorbed in conversation with Miss Burton whenever
he could obtain the opportunity? Did she hate him as she saw that
his eyes consciously avoided her and rested approvingly on another
woman? Were hate and love so near akin? Could the belief that he
despised her make her so wretched if she only hated him?
During the early part of the present week she had struggled almost
fiercely to retain her hold on her old life. Uniting herself to a
clique of thoughtless young people, who made amusement and excitement
their only pursuit, she seemed to be the gayest and most reckless
of them all, while her heart was sinking like lead. Every glance
toward the cold, averted face of the artist, inspired her with more
than his own scorn toward what she was and the frivolities of her
life. She tried to shut her eyes to the truth, and clung desperately
to every impeding trifle; but felt all the time that an irresistible
tide of events was carrying her toward the revelation that she
loved a man who despised her, and always would despise her.
And on this night, when she saw their dim forms and heard their low
tones as Miss Burton and Van Berg talked earnestly on the farther
end of the piazza; when she saw that they grasped hands in parting,
and noted the rapt look upon his face as he passed her by uncaringly
and unnotingly--the revelation came. It was as sharply and painfully
distinct as if he had stopped and plunged a knife into her heart.
With all her faults and follies, Ida had never been a pale shadowy
creature, full of complex psychological moods which neither she
nor any one else could untangle. She knew whom and what she liked
and disliked, and it was not her nature to do things by halves.
There had always been a kind of simplicity and straightforwardness
even in her wickedness; and she usually seemed to people quite as
bad, and indeed worse, than she really was.
Why of all others she loved this man, and how it all had come about,
was a mystery that puzzled her sorely; but she had no labyrinthine
heart in which to play hide and seek with her own consciousness.
And so vividly conscious was she now of this new and absorbing
passion, that she hastily turned her face from her companions toward
the cloudy sky, that looked as dark to her as it had to Jennie
Burton, and for a moment sought desperately to recover from a dizzy,
reeling sense of pain that was well-nigh overwhelming. Then the
womanly instinct to hide her secret asserted itself, and a moment
later her laugh jarred discordantly on Van Berg's ears, and he
interpreted it as wisely as have thousands of others who fail to
recognize the truth that often no cry of pain is so bitter as a
A little later, however, her companions missed her. Later still
her mother sought admission to her room in vain.
When she came down to breakfast the next morning, she was very
quiet and self-possessed, but her face was so pale and the traces
of suffering were so manifest, that her mother insisted that she
was not well.
She coldly admitted the fact.
The voluble lady launched out into an indefinite number of questions
and suggestions of remedies.
"Mother," said Ida, with a flash of her eyes and an accent which
caused not only that lady but several others to look toward her
with a little surprise, "if you have anything further to say to me
in regard to my health, please say it in my own room."
Van Berg glanced towards her several times after this, and was
compelled to admit that whatever fault he might justly find, the
face with which she confronted him that morning was anything but
weak and trivial in its expression.
But her icy reserve and coldness did not compare favorably with Miss
Burton, who had now fully regained her smiling reticence, acting
as usual as if the only law of her being was to utter genial words
and to bestow with consummate tact little gifts of attention and
kindness on every side, as the summer sun without was scattering
its vivifying rays.
Chapter XXI. A Deliberate Wooer.
Miss Burton's bearing toward Van Berg was very friendly, but he
failed to detect in her manner the slightest proof that she had ever
thought of him otherwise than as a friend. There was no sudden
drooping of her eyelashes, or heightening of color when he spoke to
her, or permitted his eyes to dwell upon her face with an expression
that was rather more than friendly. He could detect no furtive
glances, nothing to indicate that she had caught a glimpse of that
secret so interesting to every woman that she would look again,
though cold as ice toward the man cherishing it. Nor was there the
slightest trace of the constraint and reserve by which all women
who are not coquettes seek to check, as with an early frost, the
first growth of an unwelcome regard. Her manner was simply what
would be natural toward a gentleman she thoroughly respected and
liked, with whom her thoughts, for no hidden cause, were especially
Why then had she looked at him so strangely the preceding evening?
Why had she apparently shrunk from the expression of his face, as
if she had seen there a revelation so sudden and overwhelming that
she trembled at it as a shy, sensitive maiden might in recognizing the
fact that a strong, resolute man was seeking entrance to the very
citadel of her heart? He felt himself utterly unable to explain
What was more, he was puzzled at himself. The sympathy he felt
for Miss Burton the previous evening had not by any means left him,
but it was no longer a strong and absorbing emotion. His pulse
was as calm and quiet as the breathless summer morning. He was
conscious of no premonitory chills and thrills, which, according to
his preconceived notions of the "grand passion," ought to be felt
even in its incipiency. He even found himself criticising her
face, and wondering how features so ordinary in themselves could
combine in so winning and happy an effect; and then he mentally
cursed his cold-bloodedness, and positively envied Stanton in whose
manner, in spite of his efforts at concealment, an ardent affection
began to manifest itself.
During the day it occurred to him more than once that her course
was changing toward Stanton. There was no less return on her part
of his light bantering style of conversation. Indeed, she seemed
to take great pains to give a humorous twist to everything he said,
as if she regarded even the words in which he tried to unfold his
deeper thoughts as mere jests. But Van Berg imagined she began to
make herself more inaccessible to Stanton. She entrenched herself
among other guests in the parlor; she took pains to be so occupied
as to make him feel that his approach would be an interruption; and
whenever they did meet at the table and elsewhere, it appeared as
if she were trying to teach him by a smiling, friendly indifference
that he was not in her thoughts at all.
The positive coldness and aversion Ida sought to manifest toward Van
Berg would not have been so disheartening as Miss Burton's device
of seeming to be so agreeably preoccupied with other people that
she could not or would not see the offering Stanton was eager to
lay at her feet.
He felt this keenly, and chafed under it; but her woman's tact made
her shining armor invulnerable. She persisted in regarding him as
the gay, self-seeking, pleasure-loving man of the world that she
had recognized him to be on the fist day of their acquaintance. He
imagined that a great and radical change had taken place in his
nature, but she gave him no opportunity of telling her so. At
first she had, with laughing courtesy, ignored his gallantry, as if
it were only a fashion of his towards any woman who for the time
happened to take his fancy; but so far from shunning him she had
seemed inclined to employ what she regarded as a caprice or a bit
of male coquetry, as the means of adding to the enjoyment of as
many as possible; and Van Berg had often smiled to see his languid
friend of yore seconding Miss Burton's efforts with an apparent
zeal that was quite marvellous. To Stanton's infinite relief, Van
Berg did not twit him concerning this surprising departure from his
old ways. Indeed, Miss Burton had become too delicate and sacred
a theme in both of their minds to permit of their old banter. They
had been friends and were so still, yet each recognized the fact
that events were coming that would sorely test and perhaps destroy
their friendship. While they gradually fell aloof, as men will who
are learning that their dearest interests are destined to conflict,
they each tried nevertheless to maintain an honorable rivalry, and
their bearing toward each other, although tinged with a growing
reticence and dignity, was genuinely kind and courteous.
As the week drew to a close, however, it gave Van Berg pleasure--though
not by any means in the same degree that it caused Stanton pain--to
observe that Miss Burton was shunning the latter's society as far
as politeness permitted.
At the same time, while she evidently enjoyed his companionship,
Van Berg observed that she did not seem to specially crave it; nor
in truth did he find himself when away from her "distrait," vacant,
and miserable, as was manifestly the case with his friend. He
concluded that it was difference of temperament--that it was his
nature to be governed by judgment and taste, as it was that of Stanton
to be swayed by feeling and passion. All the higher faculties of
his mind gave their voice for this woman with increasing emphasis.
His heart undoubtedly would slowly and surely gravitate in the same
How to win her therefore was gradually becoming the one interesting
and most difficult question he had to solve. Although she was
poor and alone in the world, it was evident that mere wealth and
position would count but little with her. Stanton was handsome,
rich, well-connected, and intelligent; but it seemed clear, as she
recognized the sincerity of his suit, she withdrew from it. Some
coarse, ill-natured people in the house, who at first, with
significant nods, had intimated that "the little school-ma'am" was
bent on bettering her fortunes, were soon nonplussed by her course.
Thus far Van Berg's name had not been associated with hers in any
such manner as Stanton's. His cooler head, or heart more correctly,
had enabled him to act very prudently. He would enjoy a walk or
conversation with her, and there it would end. Neither by lingering
glances nor steps did he show that he could not interest himself in
other people and things. He did not attend the excursions or rides
to which Stanton invited her, and others to please her, because
he knew his friend "doted on his absence." He felt too that the
occasion was Stanton's private property, and that it would be mean
not to leave him the full advantage of the device, which might
cause him more effort in a forenoon or an evening than he had been
accustomed to put forth in a week.
But poor Stanton soon learned that his labors of love were destined
to be very promiscuous. He never could manage to carry her off
alone in a light skiff upon the lake; he could never inveigle her
into the narrow seat of his buggy, nor could his most wily strategy
long separate her from their companions on a picnic that had offered
to his ardent fancy a chance for a stroll into some favoring solitude
by themselves. Had she been a princess of the blood, surrounded
by a guard of watchful duennas, she could not have been more
unapproachable to lover-like advances. Yet, with a vexation akin
to that of old Tantalus himself, he constantly cursed his stupidity
for not making better progress toward securing the smiling affable
maiden, who by every law of his pas experience ought to second his
efforts to win her.
Van Berg, who remained at the hotel, or went off by himself on
rambles and sketching expeditions, would watch his opportunity and
quietly and naturally join her on the piazza or in the parlor, as
he might approach any other lady. As a result they had long animated
conversations, and found they had much in common to talk about.
Stanton would gnaw his lip with envy at these interviews and wonder
how Van Berg brought them about so easily, but found he could not
secure them, save in the immediate presence of others. Thus it came
about that Van Berg practically enjoyed much more of Miss Burton's
society than the one who made such untiring efforts to obtain it.
In Stanton's too eager suit, Van Berg thought he saw the danger
he must avoid, and he complacently congratulated himself that
he possessed a temperament which permitted thoughtful and wary
approaches. He would not frighten this shy bird by too hasty
advances. Through unobtrusive companionship he would first grow
familiar to her thoughts; and then, if possible, would make himself
inseparable from them.
He reached this conclusion during a ramble on Saturday morning,
and with elastic tread returned to the hotel to carry out his well
digested policy. As he mounted the steps he saw Miss Burton in
the parlor, and at once entered through an open window. She was
seated in a corner of the room with two or three little girls around
her, and was dressing dolls.
"Do you enjoy that?" he asked, incredulously.
"I'm not a star," she replied looking up with a quiet smile, "but
only a planet--one of the smaller asteroids--and shine with borrowed
light. These little women enjoy this hugely; and I receive a pale
reflection of their pleasure."
"You are certainly happy in your answer, if not in your work," he
"Mr. Van Berg," said one of the children emphatically, "Miss Burton
is the best lady that ever lived."
"I agree with you, my dear," responded the artist, with answering
"Yes, children," said Miss Burton, her eyes dancing with mischief,
"and I want you to appreciate Mr. Van Berg's genius too. He is the
greatest artist that ever lived, and there never were such pictures
as he paints."
"Miss Burton, I beg off," interrupted Van Berg, laughing. "You
always get the better of one. No, children," he continued in answer
to their looks of wonder, "I know less about painting pictures, in
comparison, than you do of dressing dolls."
"But Miss Burton always tells us the truth," persisted the child.
"Now you see the result of our folly," said the young lady,
shaking her head at him. "We have given this child an example of
insincerity. We were jesting, my dear. Mr. Van Berg and I did
not mean what we said."
"But I did mean what I said," replied the child, earnestly.
"Since only downright honesty," the artist resumed with a laugh,
"is permitted in this little group, so near nature's heart, I think
I must follow this small maiden's example, and stick to my original
statement. For once, Miss Burton, we have won the advantage over
you, and have proved that yours are the only insincere words that
have been spoken. But I know that if I stay another moment I shall
be worsted. So I shall leave the field before victory is exchanged
for another reverse."
As he turned laughingly away he saw--what he had not observed
before--that Ida Mayhew was sitting near. She was ostensibly
reading; but even his brief glance assured him that her downcast
eyes were not following the lines. Her face was so pale, so rigid,
so like a sculptured ideal of some kind of suffering he could not
understand, that it haunted him.
He had given but little thought to her for the past two days, and
indeed had rarely seen her. She had managed to take her meals when
he was not present, and on one or two occasions had had them sent
to her room, pleading illness as the reason. Indeed her flagging
appetite and altered appearance did not make much feigning on her
She had evidently heard the conversation just narrated; and she
believed that Van Berg had echoed the child's belief in regard to
Miss Burton more in truth than in jest.
The ruling passion of the artist was aroused. A plain woman might
have looked unutterable things, and he would have passed on with a
shrug, or but a thought of commiseration. But that oval, downcast
face followed him. Its sadness and pain interested him because
conveyed to his eye by a perfect contour.
"Was it a trick?" he thought, "or a fortuitous combination of the
features themselves, that enabled them to express so much! It must
be so, for surely the shallow coquette had not much to express."
"A plague on the perversity of nature," he exclaimed, "to give the
girl such features. If Jennie Burton had them, she would be the
ideal woman of the world."
The practical result, however, was that he half forgot during dinner
that she was "the best woman that ever lived" in his furtive effort
to study Ida's face in its present aspect; and that he also spent
most of the afternoon in his room sketching it from memory.
Chapter XXII. A Vain Wish.
As the witch-hazel is believed to have the power of indicating
springs of water however far beneath the surface, so Miss Burton,
by a subtle affinity, seemed to become speedily conscious of the
sorrows and troubles of others, even when sedulously hidden from
She discovered that something was amiss with Ida almost as soon as
did the troubled girl herself; but for once her quick perception
of causes failed her. She had explained Ida's apparent antipathy
to Van Berg on the ground of the natural resentment of a frivolous
society girl toward the man who had, by his manner and character,
asked her to think and be a woman. It appeared to her, from her
limited acquaintance, that Ida was developing into the counterpart
of her mother; and for such a person as Mrs. Mayhew, Van Berg could
never have anything more than polite toleration.
Miss Burton was aware that the artist's manner toward Ida had
indeed been humiliating. During the previous week he had sought
her society; but in the emphatic language of his action, he had
almost the same as said of late:
"Even for the sake of your beauty I cannot endure your shallowness
and moral deformity."
Little wonder that the flattered belle should feel hate or at least
spite toward the man who had virtually given her such a stinging
But while this fact and the differences of character explained Ida's
manner toward the artist, it did not account for the expression
of pain and perplexity that she occasionally detected in the young
girl's face. It did not explain why she should sit for an hour at
a time, as she had that morning in the parlor, her eyes fixed on
vacancy, and her face full of dread and trouble, as if there were
something present to her mind from which she shrank inexpressibly.
She tried several times to make advances toward the unhappy girl,
but was in every instance repelled, coldly and decidedly.
"What IS preying upon Miss Mayhew's mind?" she queried with
increasing frequency. Her experience as a teacher of young girls
made her quick to detect the presence of those dangerous thoughts
which beset the entrance on mature womanhood. With a frown that
formed a marked contrast with her customary gentle and genial
expression, she surmised: "Can Sibley, or any one else, be seeking
to tempt and lead her astray?"
As the most plausible explanation she finally concluded that Ida
was brooding over her father's unhappy tendencies. Mrs. Burleigh
had told Miss Burton the whole story; and she had listened, not
as to a bit of scandal, but as to another instance of that kind of
trouble which ever evoked from her more of sympathy than censure.
Ida might treat her fancied rival, therefore, as coldly as she
chose, but the fact of suffering and the shadow resting upon her from
her father's course, would bind Jennie Burton to her as a watchful
friend with a tie that only returning happiness could sunder.
Stanton and Van Berg were standing together on Saturday evening,
when Mrs. Mayhew and her daughter came down to await the arrival of
the stage. Ida did not see them at first, and Van Berg was again
struck by the pallor and stony apathy of her face. She looked like
one wearied by conflict of mind; but the quiet of her face was not
that of peace or decision. It was simply the vacancy and languor
of one worn out with contending emotions.
"I once said," thought Van Berg, "that she would be beautiful if
she were dead, and her frivolous mind could no longer mar the repose
of her features with the suggestion of petty thoughts and ignoble
vices. By Jove, I never realized how true my words were. As her
motionless figure and pallid expression appear in yonder door-way,
she would make a good picture of the clay of Eve, before God breathed
life into the perfect form. Oh! that I had such power! I would
give years to light up that face there with the expressions of
which it is capable."
Then Ida saw him, and she turned hastily away, but not before he
caught a glimpse of the blood mounting swiftly to her face. She was
beginning to puzzle him, and to suggest that possibly his estimate
of her character had been superficial.
"Your cousin has not seemed well for the past few days," he remarked
"Oh! Ida is as full of moods as an April day, only they scarcely
have a vernal simplicity," was the satirical answer. From some
caprice or other she is affecting the pale and interesting style now.
See! she has dressed herself this evening with severe simplicity;
but the minx knows that thin white drapery is more becoming to
her marble cheeks and neck than the richest colors. Besides, she
remembers that it is a sultry evening, and so gets herself up as
cool as a cucumber. By all the jolly gods! but she is statuesque,
isn't she? Say what you please Van, the best of you artists
couldn't imagine a much fairer semblance of a woman than you see
yonder--but when you come to her mental and moral furniture--the
Good Lord deliver us!"
"'Tis pity, 'tis pity," said Van Berg, in a low, regretful tone.
"An' pity 'tis, 'tis true," added Stanton, with a shrug.
"I can't think it is only affection that has made her appear ill
the last two or three days," resumed Van Berg, musingly. "Her face
suggests trouble and suffering of some kind."
"Touch of dyspepsia, like enough. However, Sibley will be here in
a few minutes and he will cheer her up, never fear. I'm disgusted
with her that she takes so to that fellow; for although no saint
myself, I can't stomach him."
At the mention of Sibley's name, Van Berg frowned, turned on his
heel and walked away.
"If Stanton is right about that fellow's power over her," he muttered,
"I'll tear up the sketch I made this afternoon and never give her
The moment Ida became conscious of Van Berg's observant eyes her
languor passed away. She had scarcely glanced at him while at
dinner, but she had felt, by some subtle power of perception, that
he was furtively watching her, and she also felt there was more
of curiosity than kindliness in his regard. With an instinct as
strong as that of self-preservation, she sought to hide her secret,
and when a few moments later the stage was driven to the door,
she was prepared to welcome the man she now detested, in order to
conceal her heart from the man she loved.
Van Berg, leaning against a pillar near, saw Mr. Mayhew with his
sallow, listless face and lifeless tread mount the steps to greet
his wife and daughter; but, before he could take Ida's hand, Sibley,
in snowy linen and a coat from which the stains and dust of earth
seemed ever kept miraculously, brushed past him, and seizing the
daughter's hand, exclaimed:
"You see I've kept my promise, and am here." And then he whispered
in her ear: "By Jupiter, Miss Ida, you look like a houri just from
Mr. Mayhew paused a moment and looked from the forward youth to
his daughter's scarlet face, frowned heavily, and then gave her
and her mother a very cool greeting before passing on to his room.
Ida could not forbear stealing a look at Van Berg, and her face
grew pale again as she encountered his scornful glance. Pride was
one of her predominant traits, and his manner touched it to the
quick. She resolved to return him scorn for scorn, and to show him
that in spite of her heart that had turned against her and become
his ally, she could still be her old gay self. Therefore she gave
Sibley back his badinage in kind; and in repartee that was bright
and sharp as well as reckless, she answered the compliments of
other gay young fellows who also gathered around her.
"Did I not tell you Sibley would revive her?" Stanton remarked as
they went down to supper. "Such humdrum fellows as you and I are
not to the taste of one who has been brought up on a diet of cayenne
pepper and chocolate cream."
"But what kind of blood does such a diet make?"
"Judge for yourself. It looks well as it comes and goes in a pretty
"Look here, Stanton," said Van Berg, pausing at the dining room
door; "there is that Sibley at our table."
"Oh, certainly! He claims to be Ida's friend, and you see that
Mrs. Mayhew is very gracious to him. He's rich, and will inherit
his father's business also; and my sagacious aunt inquires no
"Stanton, we both fee that he is not fit to sit at the same table
with Miss Burton."
"You are right, Van," Stanton replied with a deep flush; "but I can
do nothing without drawing attention to my relatives. After all,
it is only a casual and transient association in a public place,
over which we have no control. While she seems too near to him
there you know that heaven is as near to hell as they are to each
other. For the sake of poor Mr. Mayhew, if for no one else, let
the matter pass."
"Very well, Stanton; but it must not happen so another week;" and
then the young men who had withdrawn into the hall-way entered,
but the expression of coldness and displeasure did not wholly pass
from their faces.
Chapter XXIII. Jennie Burton's "Remedies."
Fortunately Mr. Mayhew had been placed at the supper-table next
to Miss Burton, and Van Berg speedily became absorbed in watching
the impression made on each other by these two characters that were
so utterly diverse. It needed but a glance to see that Mr. Mayhew
was a heavy-hearted, broken-spirited man. His shrunken inanimate
features, and slight, bent form, looked all the more dim and shadowy
in contrast with his stout, florid wife, who even in public scarcely
more than tolerated his presence. This evening she devoted herself
to Sibley, who sat between her and her daughter.
Mr. Mayhew seemed unusually depressed even for him, and began to
make a supper only in form. Jennie Burton stole a few shy glances
at his sallow face, and seemed to find an attraction in it she could
not resist. Two handsome lovers sat near her, but she evidently
forgot them wholly save when they addressed her; and she wooed the
elderly man at her side with consummate tact and grace.
At first he was unconscious of her presence. She was but another
human atom, and of no more interest to him than the chair on which
she sat. Mechanically he declined one or two things she passed to
him, and in an absent manner replied to the few casual remarks by
which she sought to engage him in conversation. At last she said,
in a voice that was indescribably winning and sympathetic:
"Mr. Mayhew, your sultry week in town has wearied you. Our country
air will do you good."
There was so much more in her tones than in her words that he
turned to look at her, and then, for the first time, became aware
that he was not sitting at the side of an ordinary, well-bred lady.
"Country air is good as far as it goes," he said slowly, scanning
her face as he spoke; "but it does not make much difference with
"There are other remedies," she resumed in her low gentle tone,
"which, like the air, are not exactly tangible, and yet are more
"Indeed," he said, the dawning interest deepening in his face;
"what are they?"
"I do not mean to tell you," she replied with a little piquant
nod and smile. "I've learned better than those people who have a
dozen infallible medicines at their tongues' end for every trouble
under heaven. I never name my remedies; for if I did, people would
turn away in contempt for such commonplace simples."
"I can guess one of them already," he said with a pleased light
coming into his eyes.
"So quickly, Mr. Mayhew? I doubt it."
"Kindness," he said, in a low tone.
"Well," she replied with a slight flush, "I can stoutly assert
that this remedy did me good when all the long-named drugs in the
'Materia Medica' could not have helped me."
He looked at her searchingly a moment, and then said in the same
"And so you are trying to apply your remedy to me? It certainly
is very good of you. Most people when they are cured, throw away
the medicine, forgetting how many others are sick."
"Perhaps we can never exactly say we are cured in this life; but
I think we can all get better."
"It depends a great deal upon the disease," he replied, with a
"No, Mr. Mayhew," she said; and, although her tone was low, it
was almost passionate in its earnestness. "God forbid that there
should be a disease without a remedy."
He again looked at her with a peculiar expression, and then slowly
turned toward his wife and daughter. Mrs. Mayhew was too preoccupied
to heed him, and Sibley was just saying:
"Miss Ida, I claim you for the first waltz this evening, and only
wish that it would last indefinitely."
"Pardon me for saying it to one so young and hopeful as yourself,
Miss Burton," Mr. Mayhew resumed gloomily, "but that which both
God and good-sense forbid seems the thing most sure to take place
in this world."
Although so dissimilar, deep and sad experiences made them kin, and
Miss Burton found she must make an effort not to let their thoughts
color their words too darkly for the time and place.
"I shall not let you destroy my faith in my old-fashioned simples,"
she said in tones that were lighter than her meaning. "You must not
be sure that because you are so much my senior, all my complaints
have been merely children's troubles. Appearances are often
misleading, you know."
"Not in your case, I think, Miss Burton. I have lost faith in
almost everything, and most of all in myself; but this unexpected
little talk has touched me deeper than you can know, and I cannot
help having faith in you."
"I will believe it," she said with a smile, "if you will give me
a little of your society before you go back to the city."
He looked at her with sudden suspicion. "Do you mean what you
"Why do you wish my society?"
His face darkened still more, for he remembered what he was, and
how little this young and lovely girl had in common with him.
"Answer me truly," he insisted; "why should you wish my society?
I've not a particle of vanity. I know what I am, and you undoubtedly
know also. If you wish to advise me and preach at me, let me
tell you plainly but courteously that your efforts, however, well
intentioned, would be in vain, and not altogether welcome. I can
conceive of no other reason why you should wish for my society."
Her face became very pale, but she looked him full in his eyes as
"I do not wish to preach or advise at all. Can you not understand
that one may ease one's own pain by trying to relieve the suffering
of another? Now you see how selfish I am."
His face softened instantly, and he said:
"Miss Burton, that is too divine a philosophy for me to grasp at
once. As the world goes now, I think you are founding a school
of your own. You will find me an eager listener, if not an apt
scholar, whenever you will honor me with your company." And smiling
his thanks he rose and left the table.
This conversation had been carried on in tones too low and quiet
to be heard by others in the crowded and noisy dining-room. Van
Berg, who sat opposite, had taken pains not to follow it and to
appear oblivious, and yet he could not refrain from observing its
general drift and scope in Mr. Mayhew's manner; and his eyes glowed
with admiration for her winning tact and kindness. The glance he
bent upon her was perhaps more ardent and approving than he was
aware, for she, looking up from the abstraction which the recent
conversation had occasioned, seemed strangely affected by it, for
she trembled and her face blanched with a sudden pallor, while her
eyes were riveted to his face.
"You are not well, Miss Burton," said Stanton hastily, but in a
low tone. "Let me get you some wine."
She started perceptibly, and then a sudden crimson suffused her
face as she became conscious that other eyes were upon her.
In almost a second she recovered herself fully, and replied, with
"No, I think you, Mr. Stanton. A cup of tea is a panacea for all
a woman's troubles, and you see I have it here. I did not feel
well for a moment, but am better now."
The eyes of Stanton and Ida met. Both had seen this little
episode, and each drew from it conclusions that were anything but
inspiriting. But Van Berg was thoroughly puzzled. While as he felt
hen he would have gladly drawn encouragement from it, and perhaps
did so to some extent, he still felt there was something peculiar
in her manner, of which he seemed the occasion, but was not the
Miss Burton soon after sought her room, and for a few moments paced
it in deep disquiet, and her whole form seemed to become tense and
rigid. In low tones she communed with herself:
"Is my will so weak? Shall I continue betraying myself at any
unexpected moment? Shall I show to strangers something that I
would hide from all eyes save those of God? Let me realize it at
once, and so maintain self-control henceforth. This is an illusion--a
mere trick of my overwrought mind; and yet it seemed so like---"
A passion of grief interrupted further words. Such bitter,
uncontrollable sorrow in one so young was terrible. She writhed
and struggled with this anguish for a time as helplessly as if she
were in the grasp of a giant.
At last she grew calm. There were no tears in her eyes. She
was beyond such simple and natural expression of sorrow. She had
ready tears for the troubles of others, but now her eyes were dry
"O God," she gasped, "teach me patience! Keep me submissive. Let
me still say, 'Thy will be done.' And yet the time is drawing near
when--oh, hush! hush! Let me not think of it---
"There, there, be still," she said more quietly with her hand upon
her side. "Hundreds of other hearts besides your own are aching.
Forget yourself in relieving them."
She bathed her face, put some brighter flowers in her hair, and
went down among the other guests, seemingly the very embodiment
of sunshine. All eyes save those of Ida Mayhew welcomed her; the
children gathered round her; Stanton and Van Berg were both eager
for her society in the dance, or better still, for a promenade; but
she saw Mr. Mayhew looking wistfully at her, and she went straight
With unerring tact she found out the subjects that were interesting
to him, and reviving his faith in his own intelligence, led his
mind through sunny, breezy ranges of thought that made the time he
spent with her like an escape from the narrow walls and stifling
air and gloom of a prison.
Chapter XXIV. A Hateful, Wretched Life.
The advent of half a score of young men from the city naturally
made dancing the order of the occasion on Saturday evening. Mr.
Burleigh, however, gave Sibley a hint that the features he had
introduced the previous week must be omitted tonight, since nothing
that would in the slightest degree lower the character of his
house would be tolerated. The excitement therefore that Sibley had
formerly received from Cognac, he now sought to obtain by pursuing
with greater ardor his flirtation with Ida. Indeed, to such a
nature as his, her beauty was quite as intoxicating as the "spirit
of wine." There was a brilliancy in her appearance to night and
a piquancy in her words that struck him as very unusual.
Nor was he alone in his admiration. The young men from the
city thronged about her, and her hand was soon engaged for every
dance until late in the evening; but on this occasion she had no
opportunity, as before, of declining invitations from Van Berg.
The solicitations of others went for little, the admiring eyes
that she saw following her on every side could not compensate for
the lack of all attention from him. He danced several times, but
it was with those who seemed to be neglected by others. In his
quiet, dignified bearing, in his unselfish affability toward those
who otherwise would have had a dull evening, he appeared to her in
most favorable contrast to the giddy young fellows who fluttered
around her, and whose supreme thoughts were always of themselves,
and of her only as she could minister to their pleasure.
"Miss Burton has so plainly won him," she thought, "that he has
adopted her tactics of looking after those whom every one neglects.
I could soon show him the one he has the greatest power of cheering,
and I know that she has the deepest need of cheer of any one in
this crowded house, but I'd rather die than give one hint of our
first meeting he has humiliated me, and I in return love him! But
he shall never know it. My looks can be as cold as his."
And so they were toward him, but for all others she had had the
gayest smiles and repartee. Vividly conscious of the secret she
would so jealously guard, she sought by every means in her power
to mask it from him and all others. She would even permit her name
for a time to be associated with a man she detested and despised,
since thus the truth could be more effectively concealed.
Sibley's attentions were certainly ardent enough to attract attention,
and occasionally there was a boldness in his compliments, which
she, even in her reckless mood, sharply resented. His eyes seemed
to grow more wolfish every time she encountered them, and more than
once the thought crossed her mind:
"What a heaven it would be to look up into the eyes of a man I
could trust, and who honored me."
What torture it was to see such a man present, and yet to feel that
he justly scorned her.
Excitement and her strong will kept her up for a long time, but as
the evening advanced despondency and weariness began to gain the
mastery. Sibley came to her and said: "Miss Ida, I have your hand
for the next waltz, but I see you are worn and tired. Let us go
out on the cool piazza instead of dancing."
Listlessly she took his arm and passed through one of the open
windows near. Van Berg had disappeared some time before, and there
was no longer any motive to keep up the illusion of gayety.
Hardly had she stepped on the piazza before she heard her father
"Miss Burton, if it will give you any pleasure to know that you have
made this evening memorably bright to one whose life is peculiarly
clouded, you can certainly enjoy that assurance in the fullest
measure. You have kept your word and have not preached at me at
all; and yet I feel I ought to be a better man for this interview."
"O, Miss Ida," exclaimed Sibley, "this is the opportunity that I
have been wishing for all the evening. I cannot tell you how gladly
I exchange the glare of that room for the light of your eyes only.
Would that life were but one long summer evening, and your eyes
the only starts in my sky."
"Absurd," she carelessly replied; and then they passed out of
"Good-night, Miss Burton," said Mr. Mayhew abruptly; and he hastily
descended the steps and was soon lost from view in the darkness.
His daughter and the man who seemed to be the companion of her
choice, brought back at once the old conditions of his life. The
prison walls closed around him again, the air seemed all the more
foul and stifling in contrast with the pure atmosphere which he had
been breathing, and the gloom of the night was light in comparison
with his thoughts as he muttered:
"If Ida were only like this good angel she might save even me; but
after my long absence she leaves me wholly to myself for the sake
of a man who ought to be an offence to her. If I tell her and
her mother what his reputation in New York is they will not listen
to me. Although he is the known slave of every vice, my daughter
smiles upon him. Froth and mud we are now and ever will be. After
a glimpse into the life of that pure, good woman who has tried to
be God's messenger to me to-night, I can find no words to express
my loathing of the slough in which I and mine have mired. My only
child, by the force of natural selection, bids fair to add to our
number a drunkard and a libertine; and I am powerless to prevent
it. The mother that should guard and guide her child, is blind to
everything save that he is rich. Froth and mud! Froth and mud!"
Unable to endure his thoughts, he went to his room and found oblivion
in the stupor of intoxication.
On reaching the end of the long piazza, Sibley led Ida to a veranda
little frequented at that hour, saying, as he did so:
"Let us get away from prying eyes. I always feel when with you
that three is an enormous crowd."
A gentleman who had been smoking rose hastily at this broad hint,
which he could not help overhearing, and walked haughtily away.
Ida, with a regret deeper than she could have thought possible, saw
that it was Van Berg. Her first impulse was to compel her companion
to go back; but that would look like following him. Weary, disheartened
by the fate that seemed ever against her, she sank into the chair
he had just vacated.
For a time she did not heed or scarcely hear Sibley's characteristic
flatteries, but at last he said plainly:
"Miss Ida, do you know that you are the one woman of all the world
"Oh, hush!" she replied, rising. "I know you say that to every
pretty woman who will listen to you, as I shall no longer to-night.
Baffled and puzzled also by the moody girl, who of late seemed so
different from her former self, he had no resource but to accompany
her back to the main entrance. Here, where the eyes of others were
upon her, she said abruptly, but with a charming smile:
"Good-night, Mr. Sibley," and went directly to her room.
The young man looked rather nonplussed and muttered an oath as he
walked away to console himself after the fashion of his kind.
"Is there no escape from this wretched life?" Ida sighed as she
wearily threw herself into a chair on reaching her room. "A man
whose addresses are an insult is my lover. The only man I can ever
love associates me in his mind with this low fellow. My father
obtains what little comfort he gets from the charity of a stranger.
How can I face this prospect day after day. Oh, that I had never
"Ida," said her mother entering hastily, "what has happened to put
your father out so? I had a headache this evening, and came up
early. A little while ago he stalked in with his absurd tragic air.
'What is the matter,' I asked. 'Look to your daughter,' he said.
'What do you mean?' I asked, quite frightened. 'If you were a true
mother,' he replied, 'you would no more leave her with that roue
Sibley, than with so much pitch. Yet he is courting her openly;
and what is worse, she receives his addresses, and permits herself
to be identified with him.' 'Oh, pshaw,' I answered carelessly;
'Sibley is about on a par with half the young men in society, and
Ida might do a great deal worse. No fear of her; for there isn't
a girl living who knows how to take care of herself better than
she.' 'Bah!' he said, 'if she knew how to take care of herself,
she would permit a snake to touch her sooner than that man. Ida
might do worse, might she? God knows how: I don't. A pretty family
we shall be when he is added to our charming group. The mud will
predominate then;' and with that he opened a bottle of brandy and
drank himself stupid."
As Mrs. Mayhew rattled this conversation off in a loud whisper,
Ida seemed turning into stone, but at its close she said icily:
"In speaking of such a union as possible, my parents have shown
their opinion of me. Good-night. I wish to be alone."
"But did anything happen between you to set your father off so?"
persisted Mrs. Mayhew.
"Nothing unusual. I suppose father heard one of Mr. Sibley's
compliments; and that was enough to disgust any sensible man.
"My gracious! You might as well turn me out of your room."
"Mother, I wish to be alone," said Ida, passionately.
"A pretty life I lead of it between you and your father," sobbed
Mrs. Mayhew, retreating to her own apartment.
"A hateful, wretched life we all three shall lead to the end
of time, for aught that I can see," Ida groaned as she restlessly
paced her room; "but I have no better resource than to follow
She took an opiate, and so escaped from thought for a time in the
deep lethargy it brought.
Chapter XXV. Half-truths.
A church bell was ringing in a neighboring village the following
morning when Ida awoke. The sunlight streamed in at the open window
through the half-closed blinds, flecking the floor with bars of
light. Birds were singing in the trees without, and a southern
breeze rustled through the foliage as a sweet low accompaniment.
Surely it was a bright pleasant world on which her heavy eyes were
Poor child! she was fast learning now that the darkest clouds that
shadow our paths are not the vapors that rise from the earth, but
the thoughts and memories of an unhappy and a sinful heart.
The sunlight mocked her; and her spirit was so out of tune that
the sweet sounds of nature made jarring discord.
But the church bell caught her attention. How natural and almost
universal is the instinct which leads us when in trouble to seek
the support of some Higher power. No matter how wayward the human
child may have been, how hardened by years of wrong, or arrogantly
entrenched in some phase of rational philosophy, when the darkness
of danger or sorrow blots out the light of earthly hopes, or hides
the path which was trodden so confidently, then, with the impulse
of frightened children whom night has suddenly overtaken, there is
a longing for the Father's hand and the Father's reassuring voice.
If there is no God to love and help us, human nature is a lie.
Thus far Ida Mayhew had no more thought of turning Heavenward for
help than to the philosophy of Plato. Indeed, religion as a system
of truth, and Greek philosophy were almost equally unknown to her.
But that church-bell reminded her of the source of hope and help to
which burdened hearts have been turning in all the ages, and with
the vague thought that she might find some light and cheer that was
not in the sunshine, she hastily dressed and went down in time to
catch one of the last carriages. When she reached the church, she
found her mother had preceded her, and that her cousin Ik Stanton
was also there; but she correctly surmised that the only devotion
to which he was inclined had been inspired by Miss Burton, who sat
not far away. She was soon satisfied that Van Berg was not present.
As a general thing, when at church, Ida had given more consideration
to the people and the toilets about her than to either the service
or the sermon; but to-day she wistfully turned her thoughts to
both, in the hope that they might do her good, although she had as
vague an idea as to the mode or process as if both were an Indian
But she was thoroughly disappointed. Her thoughts wandered continually
from the services. With almost the vividness of bodily presence,
three faces were looking upon her--her father's with an infinite
reproach; Sibley's, with smiling lips and wolfish eyes; and Van
Berg's, first coolly questioning and exploring in its expression,
and then coldly averted and scornful in consequence of what he had
discovered. Not houses, but minds are haunted.
The clergyman, however, was an able, forcible speaker, and held
her attention from the first. His sermon was topical rather than
textual in its character; that is, he enlarged on what he termed
"the irreconcilable enmity between God and the world," taking as
his texts the following selections:
"The carnal mind is enmity against God."
And again, "Whosoever, therefore, will be a friend of the world,
is the enemy of God."
The sermon was chiefly an argument; and the point of it was that
there could be no compromise between these contending powers--God
on one side, the world on the other--and he insisted that his hearers
must be, and were with one party or the other. The trouble was,
that in concentrating his thoughts on the single point he meant to
make, he took too much for granted--namely, that all his hearers
understood sufficiently the character of God, and the sense in which
the Bible uses the term "world," not to misapprehend the nature
of his "enmity." To seasoned church-goers the sermon was both true
and very satisfactory.
But when the minister reached the conclusion of his argument with
the words, "So then, they that are in the flesh cannot please God,"
poor Ida drew a long dreary sigh, and wished she had remained at
home. She was certainly "in the flesh," if any one were; and in
addition to the fact that she neither pleased herself nor any one
else that she respected and loved, she was now given the assurance,
apparently fortified by Holy Writ, that she could not "please God."
The simple and divine diplomacy by which this "enmity" is removed
was unknown to her.
She turned to note how Miss Burton received a message that was so
unwelcome to herself, and saw that she was not listening. There
was a dreamy far-away look in her eyes that clearly was not inspired
by the thought of "enmity."
"She is probably thinking of the artist and the ideal future that
he can give her. How foolish it is in poor Ik there to try to rival
HIM! It was an unlucky day for us both, cousin of mine, when we
came to this place!"
More disheartened and despondent than ever, she rode homeward with
her mother, answering questions only in monosyllables. All that
religion had said to her that morning was: "Give up the world--all
with which you have hitherto been familiar, and have enjoyed." God
was an infinite, all-powerful, remote abstraction, and yet for His
sake she must resign everything which would enable her to forget,
or at least disguise the pain and jealousy which were at times
almost unendurable; and she knew of no substitute with which to
replace "the world" she was asked to forego.
This religion of mere negation, expulsion, and restraint is too
often presented to the mind. Dykes and levees are very useful,
and in some places essential; but if low malarial shores could be
lifted up into breezy hills and table-lands, this would be better.
This is not only possible, but it is the true method in respect to
the human soul; and one should seek to grow better not by sedulous
effort to keep out an evil world, but rather to fill up his heart
with a good pure world such as God made and blessed.
The sermon Ida heard that morning, therefore, only added to the
burden that was already too heavy to be carried much longer.
Chapter XXVI. Sunday Table-talk.
To the relief of all save Mrs. Mayhew, Sibley dined with a couple
of young, fast men, who enforced their invitation by the irresistible
attraction of a bottle of wine.
"There is too much starch and dignity at that table to suit me,
any way," he remarked. "There are those two model saints, who led
our devotions last Sunday evening, flirting with ponderous gravity
with that deep little school-ma'am, who has turned both their
heads, but can't make up her mind which of them to capture, both
being such marvellously good game for one of her class. Cute Yankee
as she believes herself to be, she's a fool to think that either
of them is more than playing with her. By Jupiter! but it would
be sport to cut 'em both out; and I could do it if I were up here
a week. Those who know the world know that such women cipher out
these matters in the spirit of New England thrift, and you have
only to mislead them with sufficient plausible data to capture them
body and soul." And Sibley complacently sipped his wine as if he
had stated all there was to be said on the subject. Few men prided
themselves more on a profound knowledge of the world than he.
Ida's despondency while at dinner was so great she could not throw
it off. Listlessly and wearily she barely tasted of the different
courses as they were passed to her. She consciously made only one
effort, and that was to appear utterly indifferent to Van Berg; and
both circumstances and his contemptuous neglect made but little
feigning necessary. The evening before had associated her so
inseparably in his mind with Sibley, that he was beginning to regard
her with aversion.
"Trivial natures are disturbed by trivial causes," he thought; "and
she looks as if the world had turned black because Sibley has been
lured from her side for an hour by a bottle of wine. He'll revive
her again before supper."
"How wintry that old gentleman looks who is just entering!" Stanton
remarked. "It makes one shiver to think of becoming as frosty and
white as he."
"Oh, don't speak of being old!" cried Mrs. Mayhew. "Remember
there are some at the table who are in greater danger of that final
misfortune than you young people."
"Do you dread being old, Miss Burton?" Van Berg asked.
"No; but I do the process of growing old."
"For once we think alike, Miss Burton," said Ida abruptly. "To
think of plodding on through indefinite dreary years toward the
miserable conclusion of old age! and yet it is said nothing is so
sweet as life."
"Really, Cousin, your advance down the ages reminds one more of a
quickstep than of 'plodding,'" remarked Stanton.
"The step matters little," she retorted, "as long as you feel as
if you were going to your own funeral. I agree with Miss Burton,
that growing old is worse than being old, thought Heaven knows that
both are bad enough."
"I'm not sure that Heaven would agree with either of us," said Miss
"I fear the sermon did not do you much good, Coz," said Stanton,
"No; it did not. It did me harm, if such a thing were possible,"
was the reckless reply.
"Human nature is generally regarded as capable of improvement,"
remarked Stanton, sententiously.
"I was not speaking of human nature generally," said Ida; "I was
thinking of myself."
"As usual, my charming Cousin."
She flushed resentfully, but did not reply.
"And I feel that Miss Mayhew has done herself injustice in her
thought," said Miss Burton, with a sympathetic glance at Ida. "And
how is it with you, Mr. Van Berg? Do you dread growing old?"
"I fear my opinion will remind you of Jack Bunsby," replied
the artist. "Growing old is like a prospective journey. So much
depends upon the country through which you travel and your company.
My father and mother are taking a summer excursion through Norway
and Sweden, and I know they are enjoying themselves abundantly.
They have had a good time growing old. Why should not others?"
Ida appeared to resent his words bitterly; and with a tone and
manner that surprised every one she said:
"Mr. Van Berg, I could not have believed that you were capable
of making so superficial a reply. Why not say, if the poor were
rich, if the ugly were beautiful, if the sick were well, if the bad
were good, and we all had our heart's desires, we could journey on
complacently and prosperously?"
The artist flushed deeply under this address, coming from such an
unexpected quarter; but he replied quietly:
"That allusion with which I prefaced my remark, Miss Mayhew, proved
that I regard my opinion as of little value; and yet I have no
better one to offer. Nothing is more trite than the comparison
of life to a journey or a pilgrimage. If one were compelled to
travel with very disagreeable people, in fifth-rate conveyances,
and through regions uninteresting or repulsive, the journey, or to
abandon the figure, growing old, might well be dreaded. From my
soul I would pity one condemned to such a fate. It would, indeed,
be 'dreary plodding' where one's best hope would be that he might
stumble upon his grave as soon as possible. But I do not believe
in any such dreary fatalism. We are endowed with intelligence
to choose carefully our paths and companions; and I cannot help
thinking that the majority might choose wisely enough to make life
an agreeable journey in the main."
"Look here, Van; I'm no casuist," said Stanton with a shrug; "but
I can detect a flaw in your philosophy at once. Suppose one wanted
good company and could not get it."
"He had better jog on alone, in that case, than take bad company."
"And heavy jogging it might be too," muttered Stanton, with a frown.
Ida's head dropped low and her face became very pale. Her impulsive
cousin in expressing his own tormenting fear, had unconsciously
defined what promised to be her wretched experience. She felt
that the artist's eyes were upon her; and in the blind impulse to
shield her secret, which then was so vividly plain to her consciousness,
she raised her head suddenly, and with a reckless laugh remarked:
"For a wonder I also can half agree with Mr. Van Berg--congenial
society for me or none at all."
A second later she could have bitten her tongue out before uttering
words virtually claimed Sibley as her most congenial companion.
"Miss Mayhew is better than most of us in that she lives up to her
theories," Van Berg remarked, coldly.
Her eyes shot at him a sudden flash of impotent protest and resentment,
and then she lowered her head with a flush of the deepest shame.
At that moment a loud discordant laugh from Sibley caused many to
look around toward him, and not a few shook their heads and exchanged
significant glances, intimating that they thought the young man
was in a "bad way."
"Your philosophy, Mr. Van Berg," said Miss Burton, "may answer very
well for the wise and fortunate, for those whose lives are as yet
unspoiled and unblighted by themselves or others. But even an
artist, who by his vocation gives his attention to the beautiful,
must nevertheless see that there are many in the world who are neither
wise nor fortunate--who seem predestined by their circumstances,
folly, and defective natures to blunder and sin till they reach
a point where reason and intelligence can do little more for them
than reveal how foolish and wrong they have been, or how great
a good they have missed and lost irrevocably. The past, with its
opportunities, has gone, and the remnant of earthly life offers
such a dismal prospect, and they find themselves so shut up to
a certain lot, so shackled by the very conditions in which they
exist, that they are disheartened. It is hard for many of us not
to feel that we have been utterly defeated and so sink into fatal
Mr. Mayhew, who had been coldly impassive and resolutely taciturn
thus far, now leaned back in his chair, and his eyes glowed like
two lamps from beneath the eaves of his shaggy brows. A young and
lovely woman was giving voice to his own crushed and ill-starred
nature; and strange to say, she identified herself with the class
for which she spoke. in the depths of his heart he bowed down,
reverenced, and thanked her for claiming this kinship to himself,
even thought he knew it must be misfortune and not wrong that had
marred her life.
If Van Berg had not been so preoccupied with the speaker, he would
have seen that the daughter also was hanging on the lips that were
expressing simply and eloquently the thoughts with which her own
heavy heart was burdened. But when the artist began to speak,
Ida's face grew paler than ever as she saw the glow of admiration
and sympathy that lighted up his features. Compliments she had
received in endless variety all her life, but never had she seen
a man look at her with that expression.
"Pardon me, Miss Burton," he said, "if I protest against your
using the pronoun you did. No one will ever be able to associate
the word 'defeat' with you. I do not understand your philosophy;
but I know it is far better than mine. While I admit the truth of
your words that I do professionally shut my eyes as far as possible
to all the ugly facts of life, still I have been compelled to note
that the world is full of evils for which I can see no remedy, and
as a matter of common experience they apparently never are remedied.
Good steering and careful seamanship are immensely important; but
of what use are they if one is caught in a tornado or maelstrom, or
wedged in among rocks, so that going to pieces is only a question
of time? Good seamanship ought to keep one from such a fate, it
may be said. So it does in the majority of instances; but often
the wisest are caught. If you will realize it, Miss Burton, all
in this house, men, women, and children, are about as able to take
a ship across the Atlantic, as to make the life voyage wisely and
safely. As a rule we only sail and sail. Where we are going, and
what we shall meet, the Lord only knows--we don't. I have travelled
abroad at times, and have seen a little of society at home, and if
growing selfish, mean, and vicious, is going to the bad, than it
would seem that more find the bottom than any port."
"Oh, hush, Mr. Van Berg," cried Miss Burton. "You will fill the
world with a blind, stupid fate and the best one can hope for is the
rare good luck or the skilful dodging which enables one to escape
the random blows and storms. I believe in God and law, although
I confess I can understand neither. As the good Mussulman looks
towards Mecca, so I look toward them and pray and hope on. This
snarl of life will yet be untangled."
"I assure you that I try to do the same, but not with your success,
I fear. Your illustration strikes me as unfortunate. The Moslem
looks toward Mecca; but what is there in Mecca worth looking
toward? If he only thought so, might he not as well look in any
"Please don't talk so, Mr. Van Berg. Don't you see that he can't
look in any other direction? He has been taught to look thither
till it is part of his nature to do so. In destroying his faith
you may destroy him. Pardon me, if I ask you to please remember
that faith in God and a future life is more vitally important to
some of us than our daily bread. We may not be able to explain it,
but we must hope and trust or perish. To go back to your nautical
illustration, suppose some who had been wrecked were clinging to
a rocky shore, and trying to clamber up out of the cold spray and
surf to warmth and safety; would it not be a cruel thing to go
along the shore and unloosen the poor numb hands however gently and
scientifically it might be done? Loosing that hold means sinking
to unknown depths. With complacent self-approval and with learned
Athenian airs, many of the savans of the day are virtually guilty
of this horrible cruelty."
"I do not take sides with the Athenians who called St. Paul a
babbler," said Van Berg, flushing; "yet truth compels me to admit
that I could worship more sincerely at the 'Alter of the unknown
God,' than before any conception of Deity that modern Theology has
presented to my mind. That does not prove much, I am bound to say,
for I have never given these subjects sufficient attention to be
entitled to have opinions. Still, I like fair play, whatever be the
consequences. Your arraignment of talking skeptics is a severe one
and strikes me in a new light. Might they not urge, in self-defence,
that there was a deeper and darker abyss on the farther side of the
rock to which the wrecked were clinging? May they not argue that
the grasp of faith may lead to a deeper and more bitter disappointment?"
"How can they know that? How can they know what shall be in the
ages to come?" replied Miss Burton, speaking rapidly. "This is the
situation:--I am clinging to some hope, something that I believe
will be truth which sustains me, and the only force of the skeptic's
words is to loosen my grasp. No better support is given, no new
hope inspired. Believe me," she concluded passionately, "I would
rather die a thousand deaths by torture than lose my faith that
there is a God who will bring order out of this chaos of broken,
thwarted lives, of which the world is full, and that those who seek
a 'happier shore' will eventually find it."
"You will find it," said Van Berg, in low emphatic tones; and
then he added with a shrug, as he rose from the table, "I wish my
chances were as good."
Ida, who a few weeks before would have heard this conversation
with unqualified disgust, had listened with eager eyes and parted
lips, and she now said coldly, but with a deep sigh:
"Your God and happy shore, Miss Burton, are too vague and far away.
Troubles and temptations are in our very hearts."
Van Berg looked hastily toward her, but she rose and turned her
face from him.
Mr. Mayhew shook his head despondently, as if his daughter's words
found a deep, sad echo in his own nature.
"Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; said the wise man
of old, 'all is vanity and vexation of spirit,'" cried Stanton,
with the air of one who was trying to escape from a nightmare.
Miss Burton at once became her old, smiling self.
"You do not quote 'the wise man' correctly," she said; "but you
remind me that he did say 'a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.'
It is like mercy 'twice blessed.' This much, at least, I know is
true; and Mr. Van Berg's words have put us all at sea to such an
extant that it is well to find one wee solid point to stand on."
As the artist passed out he found opportunity to whisper in her
"I cannot tell you how much I honor the woman who with her SAD
heart makes others 'merry.'"
She blushed and smiled, but only said: "How blind you are, Mr. Van
Berg! Can't you perceive that nothing else does me so much good?
Now you see how selfish I am."
Ida saw him whisper, and noted the answering smile and blush. Was
it strange that so slight a thing should depress her more than all
the evils of the present world and the world to come?
Surely, since human hearts are what they are, a far-away God would
be like the sun of the tropics to the ice-bound at the poles.
Chapter XXVII. A Family Group.
The old adage, that "as the wine comes in the man steps out," was
not true of Sibley, for the man had stepped out permanently long
since. But not very much wine was required to overthrow the flimsy
barriers of self-restraint and courtesy that he tried to interpose
in his sober moments between his true self and society. Mr. Burleigh
frowned at him more than once during the dinner-hour, and was glad
to see him stroll off in the grounds with his boon companions.
Stanton followed the Mayhews to their rooms, for he wished to
remonstrate with Ida and Mrs. Mayhew in regard to their apparent
intimacy with the fellow.
"Ida," he said, "do you realized the force of your words to Mr.
Van Berg at the table to-day, taken in connection with your action?
You said, 'congenial society for me, or none at all.' Whatever
Van's faults are, he is a perfect gentleman; and yet you treat him
as rudely and coldly as you can, and assert by your actions that
Sibley's society is by far the most congenial to you."
Ida's overstrained nerves gave way, and she said, irritably:
"You understood the cheerful questions of our appetizing table-talk
to-day better than you understand me; so please be still."
"Oh, pshaw, Ik," commenced Mrs. Mayhew, who now began to wake up
since the theme was quite within her sphere, "you are affecting
very Puritanical views of late. It does not seem so very long
since you and Sibley were good friends."
"It is within the memory of woman, if not of man," added Ida,
maliciously, "since you drank his brandy, and considerable of it,
Stanton flushed angrily but controlled himself.
"He was never my friend--never more than an acquaintance," he
said emphatically, "and I never before knew him as well as I do
now. Moreover, I may as well say it plainly, I am through with
that style of men, forever. There is little prospect of my ever
becoming saint-like, but I shall, at least, cease to be vulgar in
my associations. I protest against Sibley's coming to our table
"You are absurdly unreasonable," replied Mrs. Mayhew in an aggrieved
tone. "Sibley is only sowing his wild oats now as you did in the
past. I don't know why he is not as good as your friend Mr. Van
Berg, who, as far as I can make out, is more of an infidel than
anything else. I never could endure these doubting, unsettling
"I admit that Sibley is established," said Stanton. "There is
little prospect of his ever getting out of the mire in which he is
"Nonsense! What has Sibley done that is particularly out of the
way, more than you and other young men? I'm sure his family is
quite as rich and fashionable as that of this artist."
"More rich and fashionable. There is just the difference between
the Sibleys and the Van Bergs that there is between a drop curtain
at a theatre and one of Bierstadt's oil paintings. There is more
paint and surface in the former, but truth and genius in the latter.
If you prefer paint and surface it is a matter of taste."
"I won't endure such insinuations from you," said Mrs. Mayhew,
"Oh, hush mother!" said Ida, quietly. "I think Ik is very magnanimous
in praising his friend in view of circumstances that are becoming
quite apparent. Possibly he is exaggerating a little, in order to
show us what a great, generous soul he has. For one, I would like
to know wherein this superior race of Van Bergs differs from those
who have had the presumption to suppose themselves at least equals."
Ida's allusion and tone stung Stanton into saying more than he
intended, and thus the girl's artifice became successful. Hearing
about Van berg and all that related to him was like looking out of
a desert into a fruitful oasis; and yet cruel as was the fascination,
it was also irresistible.
"The manner in which the Van Bergs live, would be a revelation to
you," said Stanton, angrily, "and one undoubtedly not at all to
your taste. In comparison with the Sibley show-rooms, which are
stuffed and crowded with costly and incongruous trumpery, Mrs. Van
Berg's house would seem very plain; but to one capable of distinguishing
the difference, the evidence of mind and taste, instead of mere
money, is seen on every side. Simplicity and beauty are united
as far as possible. Everything is the best of its kind and devoid
of veneer and sham. There is no lavish and vulgar profusion, and
there is a harmony of color and decoration that makes every room
a picture in itself. Moreover, the house does not grow suddenly
shabby after you leave those parts which are seen by visitors. It
is all genuine and high-toned, like the people who live in it."
"What sort of people are Mrs. Van Berg and her daughter?" Ida asked,
with averted face and low constrained voice.
"Mrs. Van Berg comes of a family that has been aristocratic for
several generations, and one that has been singularly free from black
sheep. She appears to strangers somewhat reserved and stately,
but when you become better acquainted you find she has a warm, kind
heart. But she has a perfect horror of vulgarity. If she had seen
this Sibley take more wine than he ought and make a spectacle of
himself at a public table, she would no more admit him to her parlor
than a Bowery rough. Mere wealth would not turn the scale a hair
in his favor. If she has impressed on her son one trait more than
another, it is this disgust with all kinds of vulgar people and
vulgar vice. I don't think Van will sit down at the same table
with Sibley again, or permit Miss Burton to do so."
Ida averted her face still farther, but said nothing.
"Indeed!" said Mrs. Mayhew; "and has Miss Burton given him the
rights of a protector."
"Sorry to disappoint you, aunt; but I have no nice bit of gossip
to report. Miss Burton is an orphan, and so any friend of hers
has a right to protect her. I would have taken this matter into
my own hands were it not out of consideration for you and Ida,
who unfortunately have permitted yourselves to be identified with
Sibley as his especial friends. Indeed, most in the house regard
him as Ida's favored or accepted suitor. But I warn you to cut
loose from him at once or you may suffer a severe humiliation. If
you and Ida will continue to encourage him, then I tell you plainly
I shall follow you no further into the slough."
The maiden stamped her foot and made an emphatic gesture of rage
and protest, but did not trust herself to answer the cruel words,
each one of which was like the thrust of a knife.
But Mrs. Mayhew, whose desire to be respectable was a ruling passion,
now became thoroughly alarmed and said hastily:
"Mr. Sibley is certainly nothing to me, and I hope nothing to Ida.
Get rid of him any way you can, since things have reached the pass
you represent. If society is going to put him under ban, we must
cut him; that's all there is about it, and his behavior at dinner
gives us an excuse."
During this conversation Mr. Mayhew had been lying on the sofa with
closed eyes, and as motionless as if he were dead. Now he said in
low, bitter tones:
"Mark it well--an excuse, not a reason. O, virtue! how beautiful
"You are the last one in the world to speak on this subject," said
Mrs. Mayhew, angrily.
"Right again. You see, Ik, my family never before met a man who
promised to make such an appropriate addition to our number. It's
a pity you are interfering;" and he poured out a large glass of
"Would to God I had died before I had seen this day!" cried Ida
in a tone of such sharp agony that all turned towards her in a
questioning surprise; but she rushed into her own room and locked
the door after her.
"Things have gone farther between her and Sibley than we thought,"
said Stanton, gloomily.
"Well, Ik," said Mr. Mayhew with a laugh that was dreadful to hear,
"you had better cut loose from us. We are all going to the devil
by the shortest cut."
"Would to heaven I had never seen you!" cried Mrs. Mayhew,
hysterically. "YOU are the one who is dragging us down. If my
nephew deserts us, I will brand him as a coward and no gentleman."
"I'll not desert you unless you desert yourself," said Stanton, with
a gesture of disgust and impatience; "but if you persist in going
down into the deepest quagmires you can find, you cannot expect me
to follow you;" and with these words he left the room.
Mr. Mayhew was soon sunk in the deepest lethargy, and his wife
spent the afternoon in impotently fretting and fuming against her
"miserable fate," as she termed it, and in trying to devise some
way of keeping up appearances.
Chapter XXVIII. Rather Volcanic.
Stanton was glad to escape from the house after the interview
described in the previous chapter; and observing that Van Berg
was reclining under a tree at some little distance from the hotel,
stolled thither and threw himself down on the grass beside him.
But his perturbation was so evident that his friend remarked:
"You are out of sorts, Ik. What's the matter?"
"I've been settling this Sibley business with my aunt and cousin,"
snarled Stanton; "and some women always make such blasted fools of
themselves. But they won't have anything more to do with him; at
least, I'm sure my aunt won't. As for Ida--but the less said the
better. I'm so out of patience with her folly that I can't trust
myself to speak of her."
"Stanton," said Van Berg, gloomily, "you have no idea of the regret
and disquiet which that girl has caused me as an artist. I have
seen her features now for weeks, and I cannot help looking at them,
for they almost realize my idea of perfection. But the associations
of this beauty are beginning to irritate me beyond endurance."
"It was a motley crowd that I was the means of bringing to your
table," said Stanton, with an oath; "and I've no doubt you have
wished us all away many times."
Van Berg laid his hand on his friend's arm, and looked into his
"Ik," he said slowly, "I was your friend when I came here--I am
your friend still. If I cannot love you better than I do myself,
you must forgive me. But I shall never take one unfair advantage
of you, and I recognize the fact that you have equal rights with
myself. Ik, let us be frank with each other this once more, and
then the future must settle all questions. The woman we both love
is too pure and good for either of us to do a mean thing to win her.
Do your best, old fellow. If you succeed, I will congratulate you
with an honest heart even thought it be a heavy one. I shall not
detract from you in the slightest degree, or cease to show for you
the thorough liking and respect that I feel. It shall simply be
a maiden's choice between us two; and you know it is said that the
heart makes this choice for reasons inexplicable even to itself."
"Van, you are a noble, generous fellow," said the impulsive Stanton,
grasping his friend's hand. "I must admit that you have been a
fair and considerate rival. Even my jealousy could find no fault."
Then he added, in deep despondency: "But it is of no use. You
have virtually won her already."
"No," said Van Berg, thoughtfully, "I wish you were not mistaken,
but you are. There is something in her manner towards me at times
which I cannot understand; but I have a conviction that I have not
touched her heart."
"She does not avoid you as she does me," said Stanton, moodily.
"No, she accepts my society much too frankly and composedly," answered
Van Berg with a shrug. "I fear that I can join her anywhere and
at any time without quickening her pulse or deepening the color
in her cheeks. Now, Ik, we understand each other. Happy the man
who wins, and if you are the fortunate one, I'll dance at your
wedding, and no one shall see that I carry a thousand pounds weight,
more or less, in my heart."
"I can't promise to do as much for you, Van," said Stanton, trying
to smile. "I could not come to your wedding. In fact, Van, I--I
hardly know what I would do--what I will do. A few weeks since
and the world was abundantly satisfactory. Now it is becoming a
vacuum. I fear I haven't a ghost of a chance, and I--I--don't like
to think of the future. Ye gods! What a change one little woman
can make in a man's life! I used to laugh at these things, and
for the past few years thought myself invulnerable. And yet, Van,"
he added with sudden energy, "I think the better of myself that I
can love and honor that woman. Did I regard her now as I supposed
I would when you first uttered your half-jesting prophecy, what a
base, soulless anatomy I would be---"
"SACRE! here comes Sibley and others of the same ilk, gabbling like
the unmitigated fools that they are."
Van Berg turned his back upon the advancing party in an unmistakable
manner, and Stanton smoked with a stolid, impassive face that had
anything but welcome in it. Sibley was just sufficiently excited
by wine to act out recklessly his evil self.
"What's the matter, Stanton?" he exclaimed. "Your phiz is as long
as if the world looked black and blue as a prize-fighter's eye. Is
Sunday an off day in your flirtation? Does the little school-ma'am
take after her Puritan daddies, and say 'Hold thy hand till Monday?'
Get her out of the crowd, and you'll find it all a pretence."
Stanton rose to his feet, but was so quiet that Sibley did not
realize the storm he was raising. Van Berg remained on the ground
with his back to the party, but was smoking furiously.
By an effort at self-control that made his voice harsh and constrained,
Stanton said, briefly:
"Mr. Sibley, I request that you never mention that lady's name to
me again in any circumstances. I request that you never mention
her name to any one else except in tones and words of the utmost
respect. I make these requests politely, as is befitting the day
and my own self-respect; but if you disregard them the consequences
to you will be very serious."
"Good Lord, Stanton! has she treated you so badly! But don't take
it to heart. It's all Yankee thrift, designed to enhance her value.
We are all men of the world here, and know what women are. If it
is true every man has his price, every woman has a smaller---"
Before he could utter another word a blow in his face from Stanton
sent him sprawling to the earth. He sprang up and was about to
draw a concealed weapon, when his companions interfered and held
"I shall settle with you for this," he half shouted, grinding his
"You shall indeed, sir," said Stanton, "and as early, too, as the
light will permit to-morrow. Here is my friend Mr. Van Berg,"
pointing to the artist who stood beside him, "and you have your
friends with you. You must either apologize, or meet me as soon
as Sunday is past."
"I'll meet you now," cried Sibley, with a volley of oaths. "I want
no cowardly subterfuge of Sunday."
Stanton hesitated a moment, and then said decidedly:
"No; I'm not a blackguard like yourself, and out of respect for the
Sabbath and others I will have nothing more to do with you to-day;
but I will meet you tomorrow as soon as it is light;" and Stanton
turned away to avoid further provocation.
Van Berg thus far had stood quietly to one side, but his face had
that white, rigid aspect which indicates the rare but dangerous
anger of men usually quiet and undemonstrative in their natures.
"Now that you are through, Stanton, I have something to say concerning
this affair," he began, in words that were as clean-cut and hard
as steel. "If you propose to give this fellow a dog's whipping
to-morrow, I will go with you and witness the well-deserved
chastisement. But if you are intending a conventional duel, I'll
have nothing to do with it, for two reasons. The first reason this
fellow will not understand. Dueling is against my principles, and
he knows nothing of principle. But even if I accepted the old and
barbarous code, I should insist that a friend of mine should fight
with a gentleman, and not a low blackguard."
"You use that epithet again at your peril," hissed Sibley, advancing
a step towards him.
Van Berg made a gesture of contempt toward the speaker as he turned
"You understand me, Stanton; it is not from any lack of loyalty
toward you as my friend; but I would not be worthy of your friendship
were I false to my sense of duty and honor."
"You are both white-livered cowards," roared Sibley. "One sneaks
off under cover of the day--I never saw a fellow taken with a
pious fit so suddenly before. The other, in order to keep his skin
whole, prates of his dread lest his principles be punctured. the
devil take you both for a brace of champion sneaks;" and he
turned on his heel and was about to stalk away with a grand air of
superiority, when Van Berg said, emphatically:
"Wait a moment; I'm not through with you yet. I give you but a brief
half-hour to complete your arrangements for leaving the hotel."
"What do you mean?" said Sibley, turning fiercely upon him.
"I mean, sir, that your presence in that house is an insult to
every lady in it, which I, as a gentleman, shall no longer permit.
Curse you, had you no mother that you could thus insult all good
women by the remark you made a few moments since?"
Half beside himself with rage, Sibley drew a pistol; but before he
could aim correctly one of his companions struck up his hand and
the bullet whizzed harmlessly over Van Berg's head.
There was a faint scream from the house, which indicated that the
scene had been witnessed by some lady there.
The intense passion of the artist, which manifested itself
characteristically, held him unflinching to his purpose.
"So you can be a murderer also?" he said, scornfully. "It would
almost compensate a man for being SHOT, if, as a result, you could
Sibley's companions speedily disarmed him, strongly remonstrating
in the meantime. He, in sudden revulsion, began to realize what
he had attempted, and his flushed face became very pale.
"Let them leave me alone," he growled sullenly, "and I'll leave
"For Heaven's sake, Mr. Van Berg," cried Sibley's companions, "let
the matter end here, lest worse come of it."
In the same steely, relentless tones, which made very word seem
like a bullet, Van Berg took out his watch, and said:
"It is now four o'clock, sir. After half-past four, you must not
show your libertine's face in that house again, while there's a
lady in it that I respect."
"Burleigh is proprietor of that house," replied Sibley, doggedly;
"and I'll stay up the entire week, just to spite you."
"Let us go to Burleigh, then," said the artist, promptly. "We will
settle this question at once."
Sibley readily agreed to this appeal to his host, fully believing
that he would try to smooth over matters and assure Van Berg that
he could not turn away a wealthy and profitable guest; and so,
without further parley, they all repaired to Mr. Burleigh's private
office, arousing that gentleman from an afternoon nap to a state
of mind that effectually banished drowsiness for the remainder of
"Mr. Burleigh," began Sibley, indignantly, "this fellow, Van Berg,
has the impudence to say that I must leave this house within half
an hour. I wish you to inform him that YOU are the proprietor of
"Humph," remarked Mr. Burleigh, phlegmatically, "that is your side
of the story. Now, Mr. Van Berg, let us have yours."
"Mr. Burleigh," said Van Berg, in tones that straightened up
the languid host in his easy chair, "would you permit a known and
recognized disreputable woman to be flaunting about this hotel?"
"You know me better than to ask such a question," said the landlord,
the color of his ruddy cheeks suddenly deepening.
"Well, sir, I claim that a man who bears precisely the same character
is no more to be tolerated; and I have learned to respect you as
one whom no consideration could induce to permit the presence of
a human beast, whose every thought of woman is an insult."