Part 7 out of 10
"Mr. Eltinge, I think I can learn to love God as you portray him
to me. But in my imperfection and wickedness I have not dared to
think of him till I came here."
"Now, isn't that just like the devil's work!" exclaimed Mr. Eltinge.
"It was our imperfection and wickedness that brought Christ to
our rescue, and yet you have been made to believe that your chief
claim upon our Divine Friend is a hopeless barrier against you!"
"Mr. Eltinge," said Ida, slowly, as if she were trying to be sure
that each word expressed her thought, "it was that word, FRIEND,
as you used it last night, that caught my ear and revived my hopes.
I now believe that if you had spoken only of duty or truth, or even
of God in the ordinary way, I should now be"--she buried her face
in her hands and shuddered--"I should not be in this sunny garden
with the memory that your hands have rested on my hands in blessing.
If I am to live, I shall need, above all things, a friend, and
a very patient and helpful one, or else my burden will be heavier
than I can carry. I have told you about my parents, and you thus
know what I must look forward to in my own home. But such is my
weakness and folly, I have a far worse trouble than that. You may
smile at it and think that time will bring speedy relief. Perhaps
it will--I hope so. I feel that I know so little about myself and
everything else that I can never be sure of anything again. Mr.
Eltinge, I have been so unfortunate as to give my whole heart's love
to a man who despises me. At first he seemed somewhat attracted,
but he soon discovered how imperfect and ignorant I was, and coldly
withdrew. He is now paying his addresses, I believe, to another
lady, and I must admit that she is a lovely girl, and every way
worthy of him. I think she will return his regard, if she does not
already. But whether she does or not cannot matter, for he is so
far my superior in every respect that he would never think of me
again. In order to hide my foolish, hopeless passion, I received
attentions from another man that I detested, and who has since proved
himself an utter villain, but it so happened that my name became
so closely associated with this low fellow, that when my heart was
breaking for another reason, all thought that it was because I was
infatuated with a man I loathed. Even Mr. Van Berg thought so,
and I intended to compel him to respect me, or at least to think
better of me, even if I had to die to carry out my purpose. I was
desperate and blind with disappointment and despair. To a strong
man, I suppose, these things do not count so greatly, but I'm inclined
to think what with us poor women our heart-life is everything. I
fairly shiver at the thought of the future. How can I carry this
heavy burden, year after year? Oh, how can I bear it? How can I
bear it?" and her eyes became full of desperate trouble again, at
the prospect before her.
"Well, my dear," said Mr. Eltinge in broken tones, "my heart goes
out to you in sympathy as if you were my own daughter, but old
James Eltinge can do but little towards curing your deep troubles."
"I do not hope to be cured," said Ida, despondently, "but I would
be very glad if I could think my life would not be a burden to
myself and others."
Mr. Eltinge pondered a few moments, and then brightened up, as if
a pleasant thought had struck him.
"What do you think of this pear-tree against which I'm leaning?"
he asked. "You remember I said it owed me a good turn, and perhaps
I can get my best fruit from it to-day."
"I think it is a pretty tree," said Ida, wonderingly; "and now I
notice that there are some fine pears on it."
"Yes, and they are about ripe. Let us see if we can't reverse
the old story with which the Bible commences. The man shall tempt
the woman this time, and this shall be a tree of the knowledge of
good, not of evil. Poor child, you know enough about that already;"
and the old gentleman climbed up on his chair, and with his cane
loosened a large yellow pear with a crimson blush on its sunny
"Take my hat and catch it," he had said to Ida; and she did so.
"Now, I've made you an accomplice already, and so you may as well
eat the pear while I tell you a bit of history concerning this
tree. It may help me to suggest some very encouraging truths."
But Ida held her pear and looked wistfully at the speaker. Her
heart was still too sore to enter into the half-playful manner by
which he sought to give a less gloomy cast to her thoughts.
"Some years ago," said Mr. Eltinge, resuming his seat, "we had a
night of darkness and violent storm like that through which you,
poor child, have just passed. The garden fence was blown down,
and some stray cattle got in and made sad havoc. This pear-tree
was a little thing then, and when I came out in the morning it was
in a bad plight, I can tell you. The wind had snapped off the top,
and it lay withering on the ground. Worse than this, one of the
cattle had stepped on it, bruising it severely, and half breaking
it off near the root. I don't know which of the young men you
have named this unruly beast typifies--both of 'em, I'm inclined
Here Ida shook her head in protest against Van Berg being classed
with Sibley, and at the same time could not forbear the glimmer of
a smile at the old man's homely imagery.
"Well, according to my creed," continued Mr. Eltinge, "'while there's
life there's hope,' so I lifted up the poor, prostrate little tree,
and tied it to a stout stake. Then I got grafting wax and covered
the bruises and broken places, and finally tied all up as carefully
as I used to my boys' fingers when the cut them, sixty odd years
ago. And now mark, my child; I had done all that I could do. I
couldn't make the wounds heal or even a new twig start; and yet
here is a stately young tree beginning to bear delicious fruit.
Nature took my sorry-looking little case in hand, and slowly at
first, but by and by with increased vigor and rapidity, she developed
what you see. I have an affection for this tree, and like to lean
against it, and sometimes I half fancy it likes to have me."
"I should think it ought to," said Ida, heartily, with tears in
her eyes, but a smile on her lips.
"Well, now, my child, to go on with my parable, what nature was
to this pear-tree, nature's God must be to you. We cannot find in
nature nor in the happiest human love that which can satisfy our
deep spiritual need; but we can find all in him who came from heaven
in our behalf. Jesus Christ is the patient, helpful Friend you
need. He brings more than joy--even the peace and rest that follow
full trust in One pledged to take care of us and make everything
turn out for the best. He says of those who come to him, 'I give
unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.' If you will
take this life from him it will never be a burden to you, and it
will always be a blessing to others."
"I fear I don't quite understand you, Mr. Eltinge. What is this
'eternal life'--this new, added life which you say Christ offers,
and which I'm sure I'd be very glad to take if I knew how?"
"Let Jesus answer you himself, my child. He said plainly: 'This
is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and
Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.' Perhaps I can make our Lord's
words clearer from your own experience, if you will permit me to
refer to your feelings toward the man who, whether worthy or not
has won your love. Suppose he is all you imagine, and that he
lavished on you the best treasures of his heart; would not life
at his side seem life in very truth, and life elsewhere but mere
"Yes," said Ida, with bowed head and pale cheeks. "I begin to
understand you now. It seems to me that I could welcome sorrow,
poverty, and even death, at his side, and call life rich and full.
But as it is--oh, Mr. Eltinge, teach me your faith, lest I give
way to despair again!"
"Poor child! poor child! Don't my white hairs teach you that I
am on the threshold of the home in which 'God shall wipe away all
"I envy you," cried Ida, almost passionately. "Think how far I am
from that home!"
"Well, you are not far from the Divine Friend who leads to that
home, and when you come to KNOW him and his love your life will
begin to grow richer and sweeter and fuller to all eternity. This
is eternal life. It's know the God who loves us and whom we have
learned to love. It's not living on and on forever in a beautiful
heaven, any more than the earthly life you crave is living on and
on in a pleasant home such as the man of your heart might provide.
The true life is the presence of the loved one himself, and all
that he is to us and all that he can do for us; and if a mortal and
finite creature seems to you so able to impart life, how infinitely
more blessed will the life eventually be which comes from a God of
boundless power and boundless love!"
"Alas, Mr. Eltinge, God seems too boundless."
"Did God seem too boundless to the little children whom he took in
his arms and blessed?"
"Oh that I had been one of them!" said Ida, with a sudden rush of
"Come, my dear young friend, do not expect too much of yourself
to-day. You cannot take in all this truth at once, any more than
this young pear tree could take all the dew and sunshine, cold
and heat (for autumn frosts are needed as well as spring showers)
that nature had in store for it, but its life was assured from the
moment it was able to receive nature's restoring influences. So
with greater certainty a happy, useful life is assured to you
as soon as you receive Jesus Christ as your Saviour, Teacher, and
Life-giver. 'As many as received him, to them gave he power to
become the sons of God,' and I assure you the Great King will look
after his children right royally. But you don't know him very
well yet, and so cannot have the life which flows from his fulness
of life. Suppose you come here mornings, and we'll read together
the story of Jesus, just as it is told in the New Testament, and
I don't believe it will be long before you will say to me that my
Friend is yours also. Now, come up to the house and I'll introduce
you to my sister. You think me a saint; but I'll show you what a
human appetite I have."
"I hear a brook near by," said Ida; "may I not go to it and bathe
"Yes, do what you like best while here. Would you rather bathe in
the brook than at the house?"
"Yes, indeed. Everything seems sacred here, and I can imagine the
brook yonder to be a rill from the Jordan."
"Don't be superstitious and sentimental," said the old gentleman,
shaking his head gravely. "The life of a Christian means honest,
patient work, and Christ's blood alone can wash us till we are
whiter than snow."
Ida's face grew earnest and noble as she stepped to the symbolic
tree and placed her hand on one of its lower branches.
"Mr. Eltinge," she said gently and gravely, "as this broken, wounded
tree received all the help nature gave it, so I, more bruised and
broken, will try to receive all the help Christ will give me to
bear my burden and live a life pleasing to him. I shall be very
glad indeed to come here and learn to know him better under your
most kind and faithful teaching, and as I learn, I will try to do
my best; but oh, Mr. Eltinge, you can't realize how very weak and
imperfect--how ignorant and full of faults I am!"
"Just so the poor little tree might have spoken if it had had a
voice. Indeed I thought it WOULD die. But now look at the fruit
over your head. You shall take some of it home, and every pear
will be a sermon to you--a juicy one, too. If you will do as you
say, my child, all will be well."
She bathed her tear-stained face in the brook, and came back looking
fairer than any flower in the garden. Then they went up to the
"My dear, this is my sister, Miss Eltinge," he said, presenting a
white-haired old lady, who still was evidently much younger than
her brother. Then, turning suddenly around in comical dismay, he
said, "Why, bless you, my child, I don't know your name! Well,
well, no matter! I know YOU. There are people whose names I've
known half my life, and yet I don't know them and don't trust 'em."
"My name is Ida Mayhew," said the young girl simply. "I heard Mr.
Eltinge speak at the prayer-meeting last night in such a way that
I wanted to see him and ask his help and advice, and he has been
very, very kind to me. He can tell you all."
"Yes, if he chooses," said the old gentleman with a laugh. "Sister
knows me too well in my character of father confessor to expect me
to tell everything."
They made her at home as the simple and well-bred only can do.
After dinner Miss Eltinge tried to entertain her for a while, but
at last said, with appreciative tact:
"My dear, I think you will best enjoy yourself if you are left to
range the old house and place at will. After my brother has rested
he will join you again."
Ida was glad to be alone. She had made a promise of far-reaching
and vital import that morning. Life was taking on new aspects that
were so unfamiliar that she was bewildered. She went back to the
garden, and, taking Mr. Eltinge's seat, leaned against the emblematic
pear-tree, which she curiously began to associate with herself,
and for which she was already conscious of something like affection.
"Oh," she sighed, "if my life would only come to abound with deeds
corresponding to the fruit that is bending these boughs above me,
it could not be a burden, thought it might be very sad and lonely.
I now begin to understand Jennie Burton--her constant effort in
behalf of others. But HE will comfort her before long. Her dark
days are nearly over. No matter how deep or great her troubles may
have been, they must vanish in the sunshine of such a man's love.
I wonder if he has spoken plainly yet--but what need of words?
His eyes and manner have told her all a hundred times. I wish she
could be my friend, I wish I could speak to her plainly, for she
is so kind and wise; but I must shun her, or else she'll discover
the secret that I'd hide from her even more carefully than from him,
if such a thing were possible. I wonder if they ever met before
they came here. I never saw one human being look at another as
she sometimes looks at him. I believe that deep in her heart she
fairly idolizes him, although her singular self-control enables
her, as a general thing, to treat him with the ease and frankness
of a friend. Well, she may love him more deeply than I do because
possessing a deeper nature. I can but give all I have. But I think
my love would be like the little brook over there. It's not very
deep or obtrusive, but Mr. Eltinge says it has never failed. Well,
well! these are not the thoughts for me, though how I can help them
I cannot tell. I will try to win a little respect from him before
we part, and then my life, like this pear-tree, must be full of
good deeds for those who have the best right to receive them," and
taking a small pen-knife from her pocket she mounted the chair, and
carved within the two lower branches where they could not easily
be discovered the words,
Chapter XLII. The Corner-Stone of Character.
After the characteristic act by which Ida had identified the
tree--once so bruised and broken--with herself, she sat down again
at its foot and thought long and deeply. The deep hush and quiet
of the quaint old garden was just what she needed after the delirium
of her passion and despair. Her pulse began to grow more even,
and her beautiful face sweet and noble with the better thoughts she
now was entertaining. As she sat there leaning her head against
the bole of the tree, the shadows of the leaves above deepening
and brightening across her pale features, and her large, dark eyes
often growing humid with sympathy with her thoughts, she made as
fair a picture as could Eve herself, were she dreaming over her
lost garden-home. At last she said slowly:
"I wonder if it will be possible for a Divine love gradually to
supplant a human love? 'Whom to know is eternal life.' This hope
seems to be my only hope--my only remedy, my one chance. I must
soon go back to the city, where I cannot see good old Mr. Eltinge,
where I will no longer have the excitement of occasionally meeting
Mr. Van Berg, where I shall be fact to face with only the hard,
prosaic difficulties that will abound in the world without, but
especially in my own home. I plainly foresee that I shall become
bitter, selfish, and reckless again, unless I find such a Friend
as Mr. Eltinge describes, who will give me daily and positive help;
a mere decorous, formal religion will be of no more use to me than
pictures of bread to the famishing. I must have a strong, patient
Friend who will see me through my troubles, or I'm lost. I may
even grow as desperate and wicked as I have been again," and she
buried her face in her hands and fairly trembled with apprehension.
"Come, my child, cheer up! All will end well yet. Take an old man's
word for it. I've lived through several troubles that I thought
would finish me, thanks to the good Lord, and here I am now, safe
and sound and in the possession of two good homes--this one and
the better one over the river they say is so dark. I don't believe
it's much more of a river to the Christian than yonder little brook;
but I can tell you, my child, we'll find a wonderful difference
between the two shores."
Ida found that the old gentleman had joined her unperceived, and
she told him of her fears.
"Now, don't worry," he answered, "about what will happen when you
go back to the city. Christ himself has said: 'Sufficient unto
the day is the evil thereof.' Your whole duty is to do your best
now, and he'll take care of the future. He did not call himself
the 'Good Shepherd' for nothing, as I and millions of others, know
from experience. He'll see you over all the hard places, if you
ask him to, and just follow patiently. You may not be able to see
the way or know where he is leading you, any more than the sheep;
but the path, however flinty and thorny, will end in the fold. Of
that be assured." And he gave her one or two sad chapters from
his own life of which he could now speak calmly and understandingly.
As they were about to part, Ida said: "Mr. Eltinge, I'm so ignorant
that I have not the remotest idea how to commence this Christian
life. I greatly wish to form a character worthy of respect, but
I don't know how to set about it."
"Commence by living simple and true, my dear. Truthfulness is
the corner-stone of the character that men most respect and God
will honor. None of us can be perfect, but we can all be honest,
and pretend to be no better than we are. Just simply follow your
conscience, pray daily for light and guidance, and do the best you
can. Live up to the light as you get it, and remember the good
Lord will be as patient with you as a mother with her baby that is
just learning to walk. Be truthful and sincere as you have been
with me to-day, and all will be well."
Then he brought a step-ladder, and filled a little basket with pears.
"They'll ripen nicely in your drawer," he said, "and I shouldn't
wonder if you found 'em kind of nourishing to your soul as well as
body, now you know how they grew."
With a promise to come on the morrow Ida drove away more cheered
and comforted than she had thought it possible ever to be again.
But as she approached the hotel piazza, and saw the artist talking
with Jennie Burton, she experienced a sinking of heart that taught
her how difficult her path must be at best.
Van Berg hastened down eagerly to assist her to alight, for her
reappearance lifted a terrible load of anxiety from his mind. In
spite of herself the color rushed into the cheeks which of late
had become so pale, and the hand she gave him trembled as he helped
her from the phaeton.
"I cannot tell you how glad I am to see you again. I've been
oppressed with fear all day," he could not forbear saying, in a
"I suppose you naturally felt that you could not trust me," she
replied, averting her face. "I've been spending the day with a
"Forgive me," he said eagerly. "I seem fated to wound you, but I
wish they might hereafter be the wounds of a friend."
She would not trust herself to look up till she became more composed,
but could not resist the impulse to say: "Do friends give only
Van Berg bit his lip and followed her slowly up the steps.
"I see from your basket," said Miss Burton, kindly, "that you have
been foraging. I hope you had good success."
"Yes, I think I've been successful," replied Ida, who was desperately
sorry that Miss Burton had intercepted her and must see her burning
cheeks. "I have not found roses, as you did, but perhaps these
are more in keeping with my prosaic and material nature;" and she
lifted the cover and offered the fruit.
"You treat me better than I did you," said Miss Burton, smilingly,
and ignoring an implied satire which Ida had not intended. "I did
not give you any of my roses."
Ida shot a side glance at the artist which said to him plainly:
"But Mr. Van Berg did," and he flushed deeply.
Then she selected a superb pear, and after looking at it keenly a
moment, handed it to him with the low words:
"I think you will find that no worm has been in that."
He took it with evident embarrassment and was about to speak eagerly,
but she passed quickly in, and went to her room.
"I am justly punished," said Van Berg frankly. "Miss Burton, please
let me explain her allusion."
"I would rather you would not," she replied promptly, "for Miss
Mayhew made it in a low tone, showing that she intended it for your
"Well, then I must content myself by saying that standing near this
spot, not long since, I acted like a fool."
"It's an excellent sign of wisdom, Mr. Van Berg," she said laughingly,
"that you have discovered the fact. The only fools to be despaired
of are those who never find themselves out."
"Did you ever do a very foolish thing, Miss Jennie?"
"It would be a very foolish thing for me to listen to any more of
such monstrous flattery. Or perhaps you are satirical and take
this roundabout way of telling me that I'm human like yourself.
I'm going down to supper, for I prefer Mr. Burleigh's toast to such
"Miss Jennie, I protest, I never offered you a compliment in my
life," he said, accompanying her.
"In the name of the King's English, what are compliments, then?"
"Mere verbal sugar-plums, sweet, cloying, and often poisonous. My
expressions of honest opinion are, like Mr. Burleigh's toast you
are so fond of, made of the finest wheat of truth, leavened by my
irrepressible admiration, and done to the nicest shade of brown by
the warmth of my FRIENDLY regard."
"Oh, oh, OH! Your compliments are verbal balloons."
"Yes, that figure might apply to them also, for these opinions of
mine--not compliments, mark!--often carry me up above the clouds
and vapors of earth."
"Where you will find the atmosphere exceedingly thin and cold, I
assure you," said Miss Burton, with something like seriousness in
her tone. "I must remind you, Mr. Van Berg, that even Jack Bunsby
did not give his opinions till they were asked, and I will take
some toast, if you please, in their stead."
Stanton and Mrs. Mayhew now appeared, and the conversation became
general, in which the former made rather futile efforts to conceal
his dejection. His aunt had told him that Ida had merely said she
had spent the day with a friend, and that she would explain her
absence at the proper time. "She has such a dignified way of speaking,
that you are made to feel it is an insult to ask a question, so I
shall just take her at her word, and leave her to herself," concluded
"She'll never forgive me," muttered Stanton.
A little later than the others, the object of his thoughts came
down to supper. The deep color which the unexpected episode with
the artist had caused now lingered only as a faint glow in her
cheeks. She had fastened a few pear leaves in her hair, and wore
no other ornament. Her thin white dress suggested rather than
reveated the exquisite symmetry of her neck and arms, and Van Berg
was compelled to admit to himself that his trained and critical
eyes could scarcely detect a flaw in her marvellous beauty, or in
the taste shown in her costume.
But there was something about her manner which appealed to him more
than her beauty even. The evening before she had chilled their
hearts by her unnatural and icy words and bearing. Now there was
an expression of humility and diffidence wholly unlike anything
he had ever seen before. She did not seem inclined to enter into
conversation, and yet she was not repellant and cold, but rather
seemed to shrink from notice, and to indicate that past memories
were embarrassing. But she would not look at her cousin, for she
still felt a deep resentment towards him. She was no saint because
she had cherished some good thoughts and impulses that day, and as
for poor Stanton, he became so depressed that he lapsed into utter
Miss Burton was becoming deeply interested in Ida. When she saw
her crimson face as the artist hastened to the phaeton, a sudden
light had flashed into her eyes, and the thought crossed her mind:
"Mr. Van Berg is the magician who is unwittingly practising upon
her and making her so unlike her former self," and as she hurriedly
recalled the past, she found there was much in Ida's manner not
inconsistent with this theory. Still it was not with any prying,
gossipy interest, that she observed closely, in order to discover
if there were good reasons for her surmise.
But Ida's manner was so quiet and guarded it would have required
keener eyes than even Jennie Burton's to detect the hidden fire.
The meal promised to pass, with some constraint, it is true, but
without any embarrassing incident, when Mrs. Mayhew was the means
of placing poor Ida in a very painful dilemma. Under a general
impulse to conciliate her daughter and make amends, and with her
usual want of tact, she suddenly and sententiously said:
"Well, I think Ida's very brave to be able to drive for herself."
There was a moment of embarrassed silence after this unexpected
remark, and then Miss Burton made matters far worse by saying, with
the kindest intentions:
"After Miss Mayhew's adventure in the stage no one can doubt her
courage, and I'm sure I admire a brave woman much more than a brave
man. Men are brave as a matter of course." Then she saw from the
sudden scarlet that flamed up into Ida's cheeks, and the manner
of the artist, who suddenly became wholly absorbed in his supper,
that she had made an unfortunate allusion. There was nothing to
do but promptly change the subject, so she turned and asked:
"What is the greatest number of miles you have ever driven in a
day, Mr. Stanton?"
"I beg your pardon!" said the preoccupied young man, starting at
the sound of his name.
Miss Burton repeated her question. But in the meantime it was
evident a severe conflict was going on in Ida Mayhew's mind. How
could she obey Mr. Eltinge's injunction to be honest and true, if
she let this false impression concerning her behavior in the stage
remain? How could she hope to win a particle of respect from Van
Berg if she received again this undeserved praise? How could she
look her kind old friend in the face if she continued silent? She
felt she must either speak or take the pear leaves out of her hair.
It was hard, bitter hard to speak then and there before them all,
but her indecision soon gave place to the resolve to lay at once
what Mr. Eltinge had called the corner-stone of character.
"Miss Burton," she said abruptly, as Stanton was trying to collect
his wits so as to make a suitable reply.
They all looked at her involuntarily. Her face was pale now, and
had the white, resolute aspect often seen in those about to face
"Miss Burton, I am sorry to say you have a false impression of my
conduct in the stage. So far from showing presence of mind and
courage on that occasion, I was terror-stricken and, I believe,
hysterical. With all my faults, I shall at LEAST try to tell the
"By Jupiter!" cried the impulsive Stanton, "that's the pluckiest
thing I ever saw a woman do, or man either. Ida, from this day
I'm proud of you, though you have little occasion to be so of me."
The poor girl had looked steadily at Miss Burton while speaking,
but the moment the ordeal was over her lip quivered like that of
a child, and she hastily left the table.
She had scarcely mounted half the stairs that led to her room before
Van Berg was at her side.
"Miss Mayhew," he said eagerly, "I did not sleep last night, nor
can I to-night until assured of your forgiveness. Myself I can
Her heart was full and her nerves overstrained already. She could
not speak, but she bowed her head on the rail of the balustrade,
hiding her face against her arm, and strove hard to check the rising
"Miss Mayhew," he continued, in low, pleading tones, "in all my life
I never condemned myself so bitterly as I have for my treatment of
you. I can only appeal to your generosity. I NEED your forgiveness,"
and he waited for her answer.
But she could not answer. It seemed as if she could not maintain
even her partial self-control a moment longer. Her heart forgave
him, however, and she wished him to know it, so without lifting
her head she held out her hand in the place of the words she could
not trust herself to utter. He seized it eagerly, and it so trembled
and throbbed in his grasp that it made him think of a wounded bird
that he once had captured.
"I take your hand, Miss Mayhew," he said earnestly, "not as a sign
of truce between us, but as a token of forgiveness, and the pledge
of reconciliation and friendship. Your brave truth-telling to-night
has atoned for your past. Please give me a chance at least to try
to atone for mine."
His only reply was a faint pressure from her hand and then she sped
up the stairway. He did not see her again till she came down to
breakfast the following morning, when she treated him with a quiet,
distant, well-bred courtesy that did not suggest the sobbing girl
who had fled from him the evening before, much less the despairing,
desperate woman who had given him the drug with which she had
intended to end her existence. They who see conventional surfaces
only know but little of life.
Truthful as she was trying to be, she was puzzling him more than
ever, although he was giving a great deal of thought to the problem.
Chapter XLIII. A "Heavenly Mystery."
While Ida's manner at the breakfast-table was quiet and self-possessed,
she still maintained the same distant bearing which had been
characteristic the evening before. It was evident to Van Berg,
however, that pride, wounded vanity, and resentment were no longer
the motives for the seclusion in which she sought to remain, even
while under the eyes of others. It was the natural shrinking of
one who would hide weakness, trouble, and imperfection. It was
the bearing of one who had been deeply humiliated, and who was
conscious of a partial estrangement towards those having a knowledge
of this humiliation. Thus far he could understand her; and in the
proportion she was depressed and withdrew from social recognition
and encouragement, his sympathy and respect were drawn out towards
"She is not trivial and superficial, as I supposed," he thought
twenty times that morning. "There is not a sudden calm after
the storm that has been raging, as would be the case were she in
character like a shallow pool. Her manner now proves daily the
largeness of the nature that has been so deeply moved, and which,
like the agitated sea, regains its peace but slowly;" and the sagacious
Van Berg, whose imagination was not under very good control began
to react into the other extreme, and query whether Ida Mayhew's
moral nature, now that it was aroused, was not her chief characteristic.
Meanwhile, the subject of his many-colored speculations had driven
away in the low basket phaeton, having first explained briefly to
her mother that she intended to spend the morning again with the
two old people she had visited the previous day.
Stanton volunteered this amount of information to his friend, and
there was much surmise and curiosity in their minds in regard to
these "old people," and her motive in seeking them. But even Mrs.
Mayhew had begun to realize that they must take Ida at her word
and leave her to herself.
It was with something even more than hopefulness that Ida drew near
to the garden again. She was alive; that fact, in contrast with
what might have been, was like solid ground beneath her feet. Then,
again, in the place of the cold, distant manner of the guests, after
the departure of Sibley, she had already noticed friendly glances
and an evident disposition to make amends. It also gave her not a
little satisfaction that her cousin and the artist were experiencing
such sincere compunctions, and were realizing the enormity of their
offence. Ida was very human, and always would be. She was also
a little elated over the fact that she had been able to tell the
truth the evening before. The memory, however, that nestled most
warmly in her heart was the assertion of Van Berg, "I NEED your
forgiveness." "How much does that mean?" she asked herself again
and again. "Does he really wish to be a friend, or is he only
trying to smooth over matters and calm me down so he can leave me
decorously, as after our hateful episode on the stage?"
Her wishes colored her thoughts. "He spoke too earnestly to mean
so little," she said to herself, with a dreamy smile that Van Berg,
as an artist merely, would have given much to see.
After all, perhaps one of the chief causes of her reviving spirits
was in the fact she was young. She could not take a very sombre
view of life that fresh summer morning, even in view of the past and
the future, and her manner of greeting Mr. Eltinge and of telling
her experiences since they parted suggested to him that she was
gaining in self-complacency, earthly hope, and youthful spirits,
rather than in the deep and lasting peace and moral strength which
is built up from the Living Rock. She was finding relief from
depression and suffering from causes as transient as they were
superficial. Chief of all, she had not realized as he had supposed
the shadow of the awful crime that was resting upon her, and the
need of God's forgiveness. Almost unconsciously the old man, wise
and experienced in spiritual life, sighed deeply as she finished
Her quick ear caught the sigh, and her woman's intuition gathered
from his face that the outlook did not seem so encouraging to him.
Her heart began to sink, and she said earnestly:
"Mr. Eltinge, I've tried to be true; I want you to be faithful to
me. Don't hide anything from me."
Yes, my child," he replied gravely, "you are sincere--you hide
nothing. I think I understand you. I thank God he gave you strength
last night to tell the truth under very trying circumstances, and
you have greatly increased my respect for you that you did so. But,
to use a little figurative language, if I were your doctor I might
tell you that you don't realize how sick you are and have been.
There have been some encouraging symptoms and circumstances, and
your spirits and hope are reviving, and you are looking to these
things rather than to him who taketh away the sin of the world. I
tried to encourage you yesterday, my child, because I saw you were
deeply depressed; and to discourage us is one of the chief aims
of the Evil One. I do not wish to discourage you to-day--far from
it--but I wish to realize that only the forgiveness and healing
touch of the Son of God are equal to your need.
"My child," he continued, with a solemnity that made her grow very
pale, "suppose I should take you to a room in the house there, show
you a fair girl with eyes that should look for her duty in life
closed forever, and the hands that should faithfully and bravely
do it paralyzed in death. Suppose I should tell you that I had
given her a poisonous drug the night before, what would I be?"
"A murderer," whispered the girl with eyes dilated with fear and
"Yes," said the old man, shaking his head sadly; "I would have
destroyed a life that God had given, and destroyed endless chances
for happiness and usefulness, and sent a poor soul to judgement,
perhaps unforgiven and unprepared. My child, it cuts me to the heart
to pain you so, but the physician's probe must go to the depth of
the wound. It is no kindness to the patient to put on a soothing
surface application and leave death to rankle in the blood. We
have no reason to believe that in the eye of God he that destroys
himself is any the less guilty than he that kills another, and even
in the judgment of man it's a cowardly flight from misfortunes that
should be triumphed over with courage and patience, or endured with
fortitude and resignation. Mark my words, it is only a flight,
not an escape, for every evil you sought to shun would have been
intensified and rendered eternal. Now, the simple truth is, we
hold our own lives in trust from God, to be used according to his
will, and we have no more right to destroy the life he entrusts to
us than the life he gives to others."
Ida had buried her face in her hands and was trembling violently.
"I did not realize it before," she murmured in a low, shuddering
tone. "Oh, what shall I do? What shall I do? Why doesn't the
earth open and swallow me up?"
The old man came to her side again, and placing his right hand
gently on her bowed head and holding a Bible in his left, continued
in grave by very gentle tones:
"Take this Book, my child; it will tell you what to do. It will
tell you that merciful and all-powerful arms are open to receive
you, and not a hopeless grave. The Son of God has said to the heavy
laden, 'Come unto me,' and 'whosoever cometh I will in nowise cast
out.' Heaven is full, my child, of just such guilty souls as yours,
but it was HE who saved them. It was His precious blood that washed
them whiter than snow. When you seek for forgiveness and healing
at His feet all will be well, but not till then, and not elsewhere."
"O, Mr. Eltinge," she sobbed, "you have pierced my heart as with
"I have, indeed, my poor child--with the sword of truth; and what's
more, I can't heal the wound I've made."
"What shall I do? oh, what shall I do?" and she fairly writhed in
the agony of her remorse.
"'Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world,'"
he said gently but firmly, and his strong faith and the words of
Holy Writ were like a rock, at which, from out of the overwhelming
torrent of her remorseful despair, she grasped as her one chance,
her one hope.
Lifting her streaming eyes to heaven, and clasping her hands, she
"O Christ, hope of the sinful, if there is mercy for such as I,
forgive me, for my crime is like a falling mountain!"
A moment later she sprang up and put her arms around the old man's
"My friend, my more than father!" she sobbed, "I think--I almost
believe God has heard me. It seems as if I had escaped from death,
and--and--my heart was breaking; but now--oh, it's all a heavenly
"Yes," replied Mr. Eltinge brokenly, and with answering emotion,
"it is a heavenly mystery. 'Not by might, nor by power, but by my
Spirit, saith the Lord.'"
Ida could never forget the remaining hours which she spent that
day in the old garden. it was then and there that she experienced
the sensations of those entering a new spiritual life and a new
world; and with some, these first impressions are very vivid; and
with some, these first impressions are very vivid.
It was according to nature that it should be so in the instance of
Ida Mayhew, for she was simple, positive, and warm in her feelings,
rather than cold and complex. But she was sane, and abounded in
the homely common sense which enabled her to understand herself and
those about her. She formed fairly correct estimates of all whom
she had met, and with the same simple directness she began to
recognize the character of the Divine Man that Mr. Eltinge and the
Bible they read together presented.
No earthly casuistry could ever lead her to doubt that he had heard
her prayer that morning. She might reply simply to all cavil and
"I know he heard and answered me, and if I do not know this to be
true, I cannot know anything to be true;" for never before had her
consciousness made anything so distinct and real.
To say that she and multitudes of others are mistaken, is begging
the whole question. It is baldly taking the ground of denial of
everything outside of personal understanding and knowledge. The
skepticism of very many would blot out the greater part of science,
history, and geography. The facts of Christian experience and
Christian testimony are as truly facts as those which are discovered
by people who are hostile or indifferent to the Bible.
The broad, liberal man is he who accepts all truth and humbly
waits till the fuller wisdom of coming ages reconciles what is
now apparently conflicting. The bigot is he who shuts his eyes to
truth he does not like, or does not understand; and he is as apt
to be a scientist as the man who has learned that the God who made
him can also speak to him, through his inspired word and all-pervading
We are surrounded by earthly mysteries which the wisest cannot
solve, and some of them are very sad and dark. Why should there
not be, as Ida said, a heavenly mystery?
After all, it is a question of fact. The Christ of the New Testament
offers to give peace and spiritual healing. Does he keep his word?
We say yes, on the broad ground of human experience and human
testimony--the ground on which is built the greater part of human
If this be true, what a reproach is contained in the words of our
Lord: "Ye will not come unto me that ye might have life"!
Chapter XLIV. "The Garden of Eden."
"Mr. Eltinge," Ida asked, as they were about to part, "have I a right
to the glad sense of escape and safety that has come so unexpectedly?"
"Your right," he replied, "depends on the character of the Friend
you have found. Do you think he is able and willing to keep his
"Oh, Mr. Eltinge, how plain you make it all!"
"No, my dear; it was made plain centuries ago. You have as much
right to your happy feelings as to the sunshine; but never put your
feelings in the place of Christ, and trust in them. That's like
putting faith in one's gratitude, instead of the friend whose
services inspired the gratitude. But come again to-morrow, and
we'll go on with the 'old, old story.' I've read it scores of
times, but am enjoying it now with you more than ever. Good-by."
As Ida drew near to the hotel, Stanton stepped from the roadside
to meet her.
"Ida," he said, "if you cannot forgive me (and perhaps you cannot),
I'll leave to-morrow morning--and perhaps I had better any way. I
fear it was an evil day for us both when we came to this place."
"I've thought so too, Cousin Ik," she said kindly; "but I don't
now. I'm glad I came here, though it has cost me a great deal of
suffering and--and--may--but no matter. I was better and worse than
you thought me. I must in sincerity say that it has been hard to
forgive you, for your suspicion wounded me more deeply than you'll
ever know. But my own need of forgiveness has taught me to forgive
others; and I now see that I also have been very disagreeable to
you, Ik. Let us exchange forgiveness and be friends."
"Ida, what has come over you? You are no more like the girl that
I brought to the country than I'm like the self-satisfied fool that
"No, Ik, you are not a fool, and never were; but, like myself, you
had a good deal of self-complacency, and not much cause for it.
Pardon me for speaking plainly, but after what has passed between
us we can afford to be frank. You may not win Jennie Burton, but
I believe she'll wake you up, and make a strong, genuine man of
"Ida," he said in a low tone, and with lips that quivered a little,
"I'm not sorry that I love Jennie Burton, though in consequence I
may never see another happy day. But good-by; I'm too confoundedly
blue to-day to speak to another mortal. It's a great relief,
though, that you have forgiven me. I wouldn't if I had been in
your place, and don't think I forgive myself because you have let
me off so easily;" and he turned hastily away, and was soon lost
to her view in the shrubbery by the roadside.
If Ida had puzzled Van Berg in the morning, he was still more
perplexed in the evening. Slight traces of her deep emotion still
lingered around her eyes, but in the eyes themselves there shone
a light and hopefulness which he had never seen before, and which
he could not interpret. Moreover, her face was growing so gentle
and womanly, so free from the impress of all that had marred
it heretofore, that he could not help stealing glances so often
that were Jennie Burton of a jealous disposition she might think
his interest not wholly artistic. Although there was much of the
shrinking and retiring manner of the morning, and she did not join
in the general conversation, all traces of resentment and coldness
towards her companions had vanished. She was considerate and even
kind to her mother, but in reply to her questions concerning the
people she had visited, said gently but firmly:
"I will take you there some day, mother, and then you can judge
But with the exception of a promptness to check all reference to
herself and the day's experiences, her manner was so different from
what Mrs. Mayhew had been accustomed to, that she could not help
turning many perplexed and curious glances toward her daughter,
and was evidently no better able to understand the subtle and yet
real change than was the artist himself.
Miss Burton, with her keen, delicate perceptions, recognized this
difference more fully than any of the others; and her instinct, rather
than anything she saw in Ida, enabled her to divine the cause in
part. "I know of but one thing that can account for Miss Mayhew's
behavior," she thought, "and though she guards her secret well,
she cannot deceive a woman who has passed through my experience.
I begin to see it all. She used Sibley as a blind, and she was
blind herself, poor child, when she did so, to everything save the
one womanly necessity of hiding an unsought love. Well, well, my
outspoken lover has eyes for her sweet, chastened beauty to-night.
Perhaps he thinks he is studying her face as an artist. Perhaps he
is. But it strikes me that he has lost the critical and judicial
expression which I have noticed hitherto," and a glimmer of a smile
that did not in the least suggest the "green-eyed monster" hovered
for a moment like a ray of light over Jennie Burton's face.
"Mother," said Ida, in a low, sympathetic tone, "I see one of your
headaches coming on. Let me bathe your head after tea."
"Ida," whispered Mrs. Mayhew, "you are so changed I don't know
The young girl flushed slightly, and by a quick, warning look
checked all further remark of this tendency.
"She is indeed marvelously changed," thought Miss Burton. "I feel
it even more than I can see it. There must be some other influence
at work. Who are these friends she is visiting, and who send her
back to us daily with some unexpected grace? Yesterday it was
truthfulness--to-day an indescribable charm of manner that has
banished the element of earthiness from her beauty. I think I will
join my friend (who imagines himself something more) in the study
of a problem that is becoming intensely interesting."
"Miss Mayhew," Van Berg found a chance to say after supper, "you
are becoming a greater enigma to me than ever."
"Well," she replied, averting her face to hide the color that would
rise at his rather abrupt and pointed address, "I'd rather be a
Chinese puzzle to you than what I was."
"And I no doubt have appeared to you like a Chinese Mandarin, Grand
Turk, Great Mogul, not name self-satisfied Pharisees, and all of
"I can't say that you have, and yet I've keenly felt your superiority.
I think the character you are now enacting is more becoming than
any of those would be, however."
"What is that?" he asked quickly.
"Well," she said hesitatingly, "I hardly know how to describe it,
but it suggests a little the kindness which, they say, makes all
the world kin. Good-night, Mr. Van Berg."
"Miss Jennie," he said, later in the evening, "you have an insight
into character which we grosser mortals do not possess. Do you
think that there is a marked change taking place in Miss Mayhew?"
"And so you expect me to read Miss Mayhew's secrets and gossip
about them with you?" she answered with one of her piquant smiles.
"What a sweetbrier you are! Now tell me in your own happy way how
you would describe this change which you see and understand far
more clearly than I."
"I'll give you one thought that has occurred to me and then leave
you to solve the problem for yourself. Have you ever seen a person
who had been delirious or deranged become sand and quiet, simple
and natural? Although Miss Mayhew's expression and manner are
so different from what we have seen hitherto, she looks and acts
to-night just as one instinctively feels she ought always to appear
in order to be her true self. Before there was discord; now there
"If I had your eyes I'd never read books. You suggest the effect
perfectly, but what is the cause?"
"Was a man ever satisfied?"
"One certainly never is where you are concerned, but will always
echo Oliver Twist's plaintive appeal for 'more.'"
"O constant moon! register that vow," said Miss Burton, laughing.
"Mr. Van Berg, one of the first rules that I teach my young ladies
is to say good-evening to a gentleman when he grows sentimental,"
and she smiling vanished through a window that opened on the piazza.
"Jennie Burton," he muttered, "you are a wraith, an exquisite ghost
that will haunt me all my days, but on which I can never lay my
The next morning the artist, in his kindling interest, was guilty
of a stratagem. He took an early breakfast by himself, under the
pretence that he was going on a sketching expedition; but he went
straight to the brow of a little hill that overlooked the road
which Ida must take should she visit her new-found friends again.
He soon became very busy with his sketch-book, but instead of
outlines of the landscape before him taking shape on the paper,
you might have seen the form of a young girl on a stairway with
her head bowed on her right arm that rested on the baluster rail,
which she timidly held out her left hand in the pace of words she
could not speak.
It was with a foreboding sigh that Ida realized how much she missed
him at breakfast.
Before the meal was over a letter was handed to Mrs. Mayhew. It
contained only these words from her husband: "In memory of my
last visit I conclude it will be mutually agreeable to us all that
I spend Sunday elsewhere. You need not dread my coming."
She handed the letter to her daughter with a frown and the remark:
"It's just like him."
But Ida seemed much pained by its contents, and after a moment
sprang up, saying: "Cousin Ik, may I speak with you?"
When they were alone she continued: "See what father has written. He
must come to-night or I'll go to him. Can't I send him a telegram?"
"Yes, Coz, and I'll take it over to the depot at once."
"Ah, Ik, you are doing me a greater kindness than you know. But
it's a long drive."
"The longer the better. Will you go with me?"
"I would had I not promised my old friends I visited yesterday I'd
come again to-day. They are doing me good. I'll tell you about
it some time," and she wrote the following telegram to her father:
"Come to Lake House to-day. Very important."
"I wish Miss Burton would go with you," she said looking up as the
thought occurred to her. "Shall I ask her?"
Stanton's wistful face proved how greatly he would enjoy such an
arrangement, but after a moment he said decisively: "No. It would
pain her to decline, but she would."
"You are very considerate of her."
"She is sorry for me, Ida. I can see that. She has never exulted
a moment in her power over me. My love is only another burden
to her sad life. I can't help it, but I can make it as light as
Tears came into Ida's eyes and she faltered: "Ik, I understand
A little later they both drove off their different ways.
In spite of everything, Ida found that her heart would grow light
and gland as she pursued her way along the quiet country road, now
in the shade where the trees crowded up on the eastern side, and
again in the sunlight between wide stubble fields in which the
quails were whistling mellowly to each other.
Van Berg watched her coming with a heart that beat a little quickly
for so cool and philosophical an investigator, and was glad that
her quiet old horse resumed a slow walk at the first suggestion of
the hill on which he had posted himself.
Ida leaned back in the phaeton with the abandon of those who think
themselves alone, and sang a snatch from an old English hymn that
Van Berg remembered as one his mother had crooned over him when a
child. This melody, doubly sacred to him from its associations,
would have grated harshly on his ear if it had been sung by Ida
Mayhew a week before; but, strange to say, the girlish voice that
floated up to him was all the sweeter for thus blending itself with
some of his dearest memories.
When the ascent was half made the artist sprang down from his
rocky perch, and horse and maiden were so startled that they both
"Do not be alarmed," said Van Berg, laughing; "I'm not a very
vicious tramp, and am armed with nothing worse than a sketch-book.
If I could only induce you to be an hour in coming up this hill
I'd put you and the phaeton in it. I wish it were possible to put
the song in, too. Why, Miss Mayhew! Am I an ogre, that I frighten
"I was not expecting to see you," she faltered, deeply vexed that
her cheeks would crimson and her hand that held the reins tremble
so plainly. "You naturally think I have a very guilty conscience
to be so frightened," she added after a second, and regaining a
"That quaint old hymn tune did not suggest a guilty conscience,"
he said kindly.
"I think I must have heard it at church," she replied. "It's
been running in my head all the morning." (He now remembered with
sudden pity that no memories of sacred words and song could follow
her from her home and childhood.) "But I suppose you think it is
strange I can sing at all, Mr. Van Berg," she continued gravely.
"You must think me very superficial that I do not appear to realize
more a crime that makes it exceedingly kind of you even to speak
to me, since you know about it. But I have realized the wickedness
of that act more bitterly than you can ever know."
"Miss Mayhew, I admit that I can't understand you at all. You have
become a greater mystery to me than ever. You see, I imitate your
"There is no necessity of solving the problem," she said in a low
tone, and averting her face.
"Do you mean," he asked, flushing slightly, "that my interest is
obtrusive and not agreeable to you?"
"If inspired by curiosity--yes," and she looked him steadily in
"But if inspired by a genuine and earnest wish to be your friend
and to atone for the unpardonable injustice which came about from
my not understanding you?"
"If I believed that," she said, with something like a smile, "I'd
take you with me this morning and reveal all the mystery there is
about my poor little self in one brief hour."
"How can I prove it?" he asked eagerly.
"Say it," she answered simply.
"I do say it's true, on my honor," he replied, giving her his hand.
"You may come, then, on one other condition. I would like you to
draw for me a young pear-tree, and an old gentleman sitting under
"I will agree to any conditions," he said, springing in by her side.
"Is it the tree that bore the pear you gave me? I hope you don't
think I was capable of eating that pear."
"Did you throw it away?" she asked, with a shy glance.
"Miss Mayhew, I've something I wish you to see," and he took out
his note-book and showed her the rose-bud he had tossed away. "Do
you recognize that?"
In spite of herself the blood rushed tumultuously into her face.
"I thought that was trampled into dust long ago," she said in a
"I shall never forget your words as you left me that evening, Miss
Mayhew. It was the severest and most deserved rebuke I ever had.
I picked up the bud immediately, I assure you."
"I thought you left it there," she said, in a still lower tone, and
then added hastily: "But I have no doubt you acted from a sense
"I can't say that I did," he answered, dryly.
"Will you please give it to me?"
"Not unless you compel me to," and he closed the book and returned
it to an inside breast-pocket. "I would like to carry it as a
talisman against Phariseeism, the most hateful of vices."
"Oh, very well," and she turned away her face again.
"But please tell me about this pear-tree," he resumed.
"It won't seem to you as it did to me," she replied, with an
embarrassed air, "and I'm sorry I spoke of it, but now that I have
I may as well go on. To explain I must go back a little. Mr.
Van Berg, I'm taking you to see the old gentleman who saved me
from--from---" Her face was pale enough now.
"My dear Miss Mayhew, don't pain yourself by referring to that."
"I must," she said slowly. "By some strange fate you have seen me
at my worst, and since you say you care, you shall know the rest.
It may relieve your mind of a fear that I've seen in your face
since. I didn't think I'll ever be so wicked and desperate again,
and I wish you to know my reasons for thinking so. Well, on that
dreadful night the party I was with went into a prayer-meeting,
more by the way of frolic than anything else. I did not wish to
go in, but, strange as it may seem to you, I was afraid to walk
home, and so had to follow my company. Good old Mr. Eltinge spoke
to us. He said he knew from his own long experience that there
was a Divine Friend who was able and willing to cure every earthly
trouble, and he spoke so simply and kindly that he caught my attention
and revived my hope. I felt when I entered that place I hadn't a
friend in the world or out of it. I was just blind and desperate
with shame and discouragement, and--and--but perhaps you have read
the letter I gave you?"
"Miss Mayhew, every word of it is burned into my memory. I scarcely
moved after reading it till the morning dawned, and then I went
out and walked for hours before I could compose myself and dared to
meet any one. As I told you then, so I say again, I had a greater
escape than you had."
"I'm very, very sorry," she replied, in a tone of deep regret.
"I too am very, very sorry, but it is for you."
She looked up quickly, and saw that his eyes were full of tears.
"I'm not ashamed of them in this instance, Miss Mayhew," he said,
dashing them away.
She looked at him wonderingly, and then murmured: "Oh, thank God
it has all turned out as it has." After a moment she added: "I've
misjudged you also, Mr. Van Berg."
"How? Please tell me, for I feel I have more cause to be disgusted
with myself than you ever had."
"Well--how shall I say what I mean? I thought you had more mind
"It appears to me I've displayed a lamentable lack of both. I must
have seemed to you like an animated interrogation point."
"I soon learned you were very greatly my superior," she said simply.
"Miss Mayhew, spare me," he replied quickly, with a deprecatory
gesture. "The story you were telling interests me more deeply than
you will believe, and I think we shall be better acquainted before
the day is over."
"Well, the rest of my story is more easily told than understood,
and perhaps your man's reason may not find it very satisfactory.
You know the old superstition that the sing of the cross puts to
flight the Evil One. I don't believe that, but I believe that the
One who suffered on the cross puts him to flight. Mr. Eltinge's
simple, downright assertion that Jesus could remedy every earthly
trouble--that he would be a patient, helpful Friend--broke the evil
spell by which despair had blinded me, and I resolved to try and
live if I could. After the old gentleman came out of the church I
asked him to let me visit him, and he has been very, very kind. I
told him everything. The first day he saw I was greatly discouraged,
and told me the history of a young pear-tree against which he was
leaning, and which was full of beautiful fruit. He said that on a
stormy night it was broken by the wind, and trampled upon by some
stray cattle, and he scarcely thought it could live, for it was
prostrate on the ground, but he lifted it, and took care of it,
and gave nature a chance to restore it. You would think nature
was like a kind of mother, to hear him talk. Then he reasoned
that Jesus, the Author of nature, would do for me what nature had
done for the wounded tree, but that I must not expect too much at
first--that I must be receptive and willing to grow patiently as
the tree had done, in a new and better life. Thus the tree has
become to me an emblem of hope, and I trust a prophecy of my future,
although I do not expect ever to reach anything like the perfection
suggested by the pear-tree and its delicious fruit. The facts
that have impressed me most are that it was bruised, prostrate,
and ready to die, and now it is alive and useful. Old Mr. Eltinge
loves it, and likes to lean against it, as you will see."
"The fact that has impressed me most in this allegory," groaned
Van Berg, "is that I was the brute that trampled on you."
"You are too severe on yourself," she said earnestly. "I shall
have to take your part."
"Please do. I throw myself wholly on your mercy."
"I believe Shakespeare was right," she said, with a shy laugh and
averted face. "Mercy is always twice bless'd. But I have not
told you all, Mr. Van Berg. Yesterday was the most memorable day
of my life. On Thursday Mr. Eltinge saw I needed encouragement;
yesterday he saw that I had not realized the crime I had almost
committed, and that I was stopping short of him who alone could
change my whole nature. Indeed, I think he saw that I was even
inclined to become well pleased with myself, and content with my
prospects of winning back the esteem of others. He was faithful
with me as well as kind. By an illustration, which you will pardon
me for not repeating, he made it clear to me as the light that in
the intent of my heart I had been guilty of murder. Mr. Van Berg,
may you never know the agony and remorse that I suffered for the
few moments I saw my sin somewhat as it must appear to God, and
to good men like Mr. Eltinge. I was overwhelmed. It seemed as if
my crime would crush me. I don't think I could have lived if the
sense of terror and despair had lasted. But dear old Mr. Eltinge
stood by me in that terrible moment. He put his hand on my head
as a father might have done, and in tones that seemed like a voice
from heaven, said: 'Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the
sin of the world.' I felt that I could not bear my sin an instant
longer; it was like a mountain of lead, and with a desperate
impulse to escape, I looked to Christ--I just fled to him, as it
were, and it was the same as if he had opened his arms and received
me. From that moment I have felt safe, and almost happy. I can't
explain all this to you, I only tell you what happened. It doesn't
seem like superstition or excited imagination, as I've heard some
characterize these things. It was all too real: Mr. Van Berg, the
simple truth is--I've found a Friend, who is pledged to take care
of me. I KNOW IT. I am reading the story of his life, under Mr.
Eltinge's guidance, and that is why I come here. Now you know all
the mystery there is about the faulty girl in whom circumstances
have given you a passing interest. Since you knew so much that
was against me, perhaps you will not think it strange that I was
willing you should learn what is now in my favor. It is simply
this--I've found a Divine Friend who will help me live a better
They had now reached Mr. Eltinge's gate, and Van Berg stepped out
to open it. But before doing so, he turned to his companion, and
with eyes moist with feeling, said earnestly:
"Miss Mayhew, circumstances might have given me but a passing
interest in you, but YOU have won an abiding interest. You have
been generous enough to forgive me, and now you will have to repel
me resolutely, to prevent my being your friend. Indeed I shall be
one in heart hereafter, even though you may not permit me to enjoy
your society, for you may very naturally wish to shun one who cannot
fail to remind you of so much that is painful. As for your story,
it is a revelation to me. I may never possess your happy faith,
but I will respect it;" and although he turned hastily away she
could not fail to see that he was deeply moved.
Mr. Eltinge received the young man with some surprise, and did
not seem to regard his presence as altogether welcome. The artist
thought to disarm the old gentleman by a decided manifestation of
frankness and courtesy:
"I feel that in a certain sense I am an intruder in your beautiful
garden to-day. Miss Mayhew met me on the road, and I fear I must
own that I had the bad grace almost the same as to invite myself
hither. At least she saw that I was exceedingly anxious to come."
"Do you know Miss Mayhew's motive in coming hither?" asked Mr.
"I do, and I respect it."
"You take safe ground there, sir," said Mr. Eltinge, with increasing
dignity. "Christianity is at least respectable. But do you believe
it to be absolutely true and binding on the conscience?"
The artist was silent.
"Mr. Van Berg," resumed the old gentleman, with a gravity that tended
even towards sternness, "I would not fail in any act of courtesy
towards you, especially her at my own home; but justice, mercy, and
truth are above all other considerations. Both you and I know this
child's history sufficiently well to be aware that it is a dangerous
thing to exert an influence at random on human lives. You say
you know her motive in coming hither. Let me state the truth very
plainly: she has turned her face heavenward; she is taking her first
uncertain steps as a pilgrim towards the better home. In justice
to you and in mercy to you both let me quote the words of him before
whom we all shall stand;" and placing his hand on Ida's shoulder
he repeated with the aspect of one of God's ancient prophets those
solemn words that too many dare to ignore: "'Whoso shall offend
one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for
him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were
drowned in the depth of the sea.' Mr. Van Berg, in memory of the
past, beware lest consciously or even unconsciously, through your
indifference to her faith, you lay a straw in this child's way.
The weak and the helpless are very near to the heart of God, and
the most dangerous act a man ever commits is when he causes one of
these little ones to offend."
Ida trembled beneath her friend's hand and wished she had not
permitted the artist to come, but the young man's sincerity and
good-breeding enabled him to pass the ordeal. Removing his hat, he
replied to Mr. Eltinge with a fine blending of dignity and humility:
"I honor you, sir," he said, "for your faithfulness to the one who
has come to you for counsel and in a certain sense for protection;
and I condemn myself with bitterness that you will never understand,
that I wronged her in my thoughts and wounded her by any manner. I
am eager to make any and every atonement in my power. No language
can express my gladness that she heard and heeded your words.
Pardon me, sir, when I say I am not indifferent to her faith. It
is, indeed, a mystery to me, but a noble mystery which I revere
from the fruits that I have already witnessed. In my unpardonable
stupidity and prejudice--in a Pharisaic pride--I have caused Miss
Mayhew to offend. She has generously forgiven me. Myself I shall
never forgive. If she will honor me with her friendship hereafter,
I pledge you my word that no act of mine, so far as I can help it,
shall ever cause you anxiety for one in whom you have so strong
and natural an interest."
Mr. Eltinge's manner changed decidedly, and when Van Berg concluded
he extended his hand and said cordially:
"After such manly, straightforward words I can give you the right
hand of respect and confidence, if not of fellowship. To tell you
the truth, sir, I was inclined to believe that my little friend
here had a better opinion of you than you deserved, but now I can
welcome you instead of scolding her for bringing you."
At the reference to herself Ida, seemingly, had an impulse to pluck
a flower that was blooming at a little distance. The moment he
was unobserved Van Berg seized the old gentleman's hand and said,
earnestly, while tears sprang to his eyes:
"God bless you for the words you spoke to that poor child. I owe
you more than she does. You have saved me from a life that I would
dread more than death," and then he, too, turned away hastily and
pretended to be very busy in finding the materials for his sketch.
Ida returned shyly, and it would seem that some of the color of
her flower had found its way into her cheeks.
"Mr. Eltinge," she said, hesitatingly, "I don't believe I can make
you understand how much I would like a picture of this pear-tree
and yourself sitting under it as I have seen you for the past two
days. I must admit that the wish to have such a sketch was one of
the motives that led me to bring Mr. Van Berg." Then she added,
with deepening color still, "my conscience troubles me when I hear
Mr. Van Berg condemn himself so harshly. I have learned that I
misjudged him as truly as he did me, and I have since realized how
sadly both facts and appearances were against me."
"Well, Miss Ida," said the old gentleman, musingly, "I am inclined
to think there has been more of misunderstanding than of intentional
and deliberate harshness. My long life has taught me that it is
astonishing how blind we often are to the thoughts and feelings
of others. But I warn everybody to be careful how they visit this
old garden, for it's a wonderful place for bringing out the truth.
Nature is in the ascendant here," and he looked keenly and humorously
at the artist, who remained, however, unconscious of his scrutiny,
for his eyes were following Ida. She had suddenly turned her back
upon them both again, and was soon bending over the little brook
whose murmur he faintly heard.
"These allusions to the past are all painful to her," he thought,
"and she refers to them only because, as she says, her conscience
compels her to. It must be my task to make her forget the past in
the present and future."
"Mr. Van Berg," she said, returning, "you have visited the Jordan
I believe, but I doubt whether its waters did you more good than
that little brook over there does me. That's right," she added,
looking over his shoulder at the outlines he was rapidly tracing;
"I'm glad you are losing no time."
"I remember the condition on which you allowed me to come," he
replied, looking up with a smile into her face, "and I've already
learned, as Mr. Eltinge suggests, that nothing will do in this
garden but downright honesty." Something in her face caused his
eyes to linger, and he added hastily: "You're right about the
Jordan. The brook seems much more potent, for apparently it has
washed your trouble all away, but has left--well you might think
it flattery if I should tell you all I see. this garden seems to
contain the elixir of life for you, Miss Ida. My heart was aching
to see how pale you were becoming, but here---"
"Mr. Van Berg," said Ida, abruptly, "will you pardon a suggestion?"
He looked up at her again a little wonderingly and bowed.
"There has been a sort of necessity," she resumed, "that my faulty
self should be the theme of our conversation to-day, but all the
mystery in which you imagined me enveloped must have vanished since
you came here. I now must ask that we dwell hereafter on more
agreeable subjects than Ida Mayhew."
"I must bring this tendency to personal allusions to an end at once,"
she thought, "or else I shall betray myself to my bitter mortification."
He looked up with a deprecating smile, "I am at your mercy," he
replied, "and as I said before I will submit to any conditions."
"This is an easy one," said Ida, with emphasis, and then she took
up the Bible and began reading to Mr. Eltinge, who from his seat
under the pear-tree had been watching them with a pleased and
placid interest on his serene old face. Their young life appeared
beautiful now, and full of hope and promise, but he did not envy
it. The prospect before him was better than the best that earth
Van Berg never forgot the hour that followed. His pencil was busy
but his thoughts were busier. He felt his artist life and power
kindling within him in a way that was exhilarating and grand. While
his themes were simple he felt that they were noble and beautiful
in the highest degree. The tree--a pretty object in itself--had
been endowed with a human interest and suggested a divine philosophy.
Mr. Eltinge, who sat at its foot, became to him one of the world's
chief heroes--a man who had met and vanquished evil for almost
a century. His white hair and silver beard were a halo of glory
around the quiet face that was turned in kindly sympathy towards
his companion, and Van Berg did his best to bring out the noble
But the maiden herself--why did his eyes turn so often to her,
and why did he, unasked, introduce her into the sketch with a care
and lingering delicacy of touch that made even her pencilled image
seem a living girl? When not affected or rendered conventional by
society, her voice was singularly girlish and natural, and there
would often be a tone in a plaintive and minor key that vibrated
like a low, sweet chord in his heart rather than in his ears. It
must be admitted that he gave little heed to the sacred words she
read; but the flexible music of her voice, mingled with the murmur
of the brook, the rustle of the leaves and the occasional song of a
bird, all combined to form the sweetest symphony he had ever heard.
As an artist he exulted. His hand had not lost its cunning, and
his ruling passion, which the strange experiences of the past few
weeks had held in abeyance, was reasserting itself with a fuller,
richer power than he had known before. That WAS Ida Mayhew's face
that was growing beautiful and full of her new and better life
under his appreciative and skilful touch, and the consciousness
of success in the kind of effort in which success meant to him so
much, filled him with a strong enthusiasm.
Once or twice Ida glanced shyly at him, and his appearance did not
tend to fix her thoughts wholly on the sacred text.
At last Mr. Eltinge said: "That will do for to-day. I think, under
the circumstances, you have given most praiseworthy attention to
what you have read, and to what little I could say in the way of
explanation. Now for the picture, and I confess I'm as eager as a
child to see it;" and they came and looked over Van Berg's shoulder.
Almost instantly Ida clapped her hands, exclaiming with delight:
"The tree is perfect, and oh, Mr. Eltinge, I shall always have
you now, with your dear kind face turned towards me as I have seen
it to-day!" Suddenly her manner changed, and in a tone full of
disappointment she added, "Oh, Mr. Van Berg, how could you spoil
my picture? You have put me in it."
"Certainly," he replied demurely, "you were a part of the picture."
"Not a necessary part. I did not ask you to do that," she answered,
in a way that proved her feelings were hurt.
"I am willing to do more than you ask, and if you insist on it I
will efface your image, although I should much regret to do so."
"I protest against that," cried Mr. Eltinge. "So far from spoiling
the picture, your being there makes it invaluable to me. I'm going
to tax Mr. Van Berg's generosity, and ask for this in the hope that
he will make another drawing of the old man and the tree only, for
"Would you like to have it so very much?" said Ida, much pleased
with this arrangement.
"Yes, my dear, very much indeed, and I'll place it near my favorite
chimney corner, where I can see you all winter. Mr. Van Berg,
I congratulate you; I'm not much of a judge of art, but this is
my little friend here, true to life. You have been very happy in
catching the expression which I am learning to know so well."
"Your words have a fuller meaning than you think," replied the
artist, heartily. "I have indeed been very happy in my work. I
never enjoyed a morning more in my life."
"But I'm to go home without any picture," said Ida, trying to hide
her pleasure by assumed reproachfulness.
"There is no picture yet, for any one," he answered, "this is only
a sketch from which I shall try to make two pictures that will
suggest a scene particularly attractive to one of my calling, to
say the least."
As he placed the sketch in his book, the work he had been engaged
on that morning when Ida met him by the roadside, dropped out, and
she saw herself leaning on the baluster rail of the staircase, with
her hand half extended as a token of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Her cheeks flushed instantly, but she was able to remark quietly:
"I suppose that is the way you artists keep a memorandum of current
He replied gravely, but with some answering color also: "Yes, Miss
Mayhew, when the current is deep and strong."
Van Berg felt himself happy in securing from Mr. Eltinge an invitation
to come again. As they were riding home, Ida remarked, shyly:
"I did not know you could draw so well."
"Nor did I either before. That old garden is enchanted ground."
"Yes," said Ida, "poor Eve was driven out of the Garden of Eden,
but I feel as if I had found my way into it. I only wish I could
stay there," and her sigh was long and deep.
"Does the world outside seem very full of thorns and thistles?" he
After a moment she replied, simply and briefly, "Yes."
He looked at her sympathetically for a moment, and then said
"Miss Ida, pardon me if I venture a prediction. Wherever you dwell,
hereafter, all that is good and beautiful in life and character
which the garden typifies will begin to take the place of thorns
"I hope so," she faltered, "but that involves bleeding hands, Mr.
Van Berg. I am not cast in heroic mould. I am weak and wavering, and
as a proof I am dwelling on the very subject that I had forbidden.
I trust that you will be too manly to take advantage of my weakness
henceforth and will try to help me forget myself."
"That may be a harder task than you think, but I will attempt
whatever you ask," and from her pleased and interested expression
it would seem that during the next half hour he succeeded remarkably
well. Suddenly, as if a happy thought had struck him, he said a
"I foresee that you and Miss Burton are destined to become great
friends. You have not yet learned what a lovely character she
possesses and how broad and deep are her sympathies."
Ida's silence caused him to turn and look at her, and he saw that the
light and color had faded from her face, but she said, emphatically:
"Miss Burton is even more admirable than you think her to be, if
that were possible."
"I am pleased to hear one lady speak so strongly and generously of
another. It is not usual. I shall do my utmost to make you better
acquainted with each other, and in this pleasant task am sure I
shall render you a very great service."
"Mr. Van Berg, I beg you will not," she exclaimed, hastily, and he
saw with surprise that she appeared painfully embarrassed.
"Pardon me, Miss Mayhew," he said; "I did not mean to be officious."
Ida saw no way of extricating herself save by promptly changing the
subject, and this she did; but she could not fail to observe that
her companion was hurt by her apparent unfriendliness towards one
on whom he believed he had bestowed the best a man could give. The
remainder of the drive was not enjoyed by either of them as the
earlier part had been, and something like constraint tinged the
manner and words of both.
As they drove up to the hotel Stanton gave a low whistle of surprise,
but was in no mood for his old-time banter.
Chapter XLV. Problems Beyond Art.
When Van Berg left the garden he thought he had learned to understand
Ida almost as clearly as he saw the pebbly bed of the little brook
through the limpid current that flowed over it, and yet within a
brief half-hour another baffling mystery had arisen. Why did she
dislike Jennie Burton? Why she HAD disliked her was plain, but it
seemed to follow inevitably that one who could love old Mr. Eltinge
must also find a congenial friend in the woman he so greatly admired.
As the remainder of the day passed, this new cloud darkened and
seemed to shadow even himself. While he could detect no flaw in
her courtesy, he could not help feeling that she made a conscious
effort to avoid them both. At dinner she conversed chiefly with
her cousin. Van Berg's eyes would wander often to her face, but
she never looked towards him unless he spoke to her. When he or
Miss Burton addressed her there was not a trace of coldness in her
manner of responding; a superficial observer would merely think
they were people in whom she was not especially interested.
"Poor child," thought Jennie Burton, "she acts her part well," and
she puzzled the artist still further by taking less notice of Ida
"But when I think of it," he mused, "it's just like my unique little
friend. Only those in trouble interest her, and Miss Mayhew is on
a straight road to happiness now, she believes, although the young
lady herself seems to dread a world full of thorns and thistles, and
her father and mother, at least, will insure an abundance of both
in her own home. But her repulsion from Miss Burton, the very one
towards whom I supposed she would be attracted in her new life,
is what perplexes me most. I imagine all women are mysteries when
you come to scrutinize their motives and impulses closely. The two
who have occupied my thoughts this summer certainly are, and I'll
stick to painting if I ever get out of this muddle."
After dinner he found a chance to ask Stanton if Mr. Mayhew was
expected that evening.
"Yes," was the reply. "In memory of last Sunday he wrote he would
not come, but Ida sent a telegram asking him to be here without
fail. I took it over to the station for her, and made sure that
my uncle received it. She will puzzle him more than she has the
rest of us, I suppose, and I am quite curious to see the result."
The artist made no reply, but went to his room and tried to work on
his pictures. He was more than curious--he was deeply interested,
but felt that he was trenching on delicate ground. The relations
between the father and daughter were too sacred, he believed, for
even sympathetic observation on his part.
He soon threw aside his work. The inspiration of the morning was
all gone, and in its place had come an unaccountable dissatisfaction
with himself and the world in general. He had left the garden with
a sense of exhilaration that made life appear beautiful and full
of richest promise. He had been saved from disaster that would
have been crushing; his object in coming to the country had been
accomplished, and the Undine he discovered HAD received a woman's
soul that was blending the perfect but discordant features into an
exquisitely beautiful face. The result, certainly, had not been
brought about as he expected, nor in a way tending to increase his
self-complacency, but he felt that he would be a broader and better
man for the ordeal through which he had passed. He also realized
that the changes in Ida were not the superficial ones he had
contemplated. he had regarded her face and character as little
better than a piece of canvas on which there was already a drawing
of great promise, but very defective. By erasures here and skillful
touches there he had hoped to assist nature in carrying out her
evident intentions. The tragedy that well-nigh resulted taught
him that human lives are dangerous playthings, and that quackery
in attempting spiritual reform involved more peril than ignorant
interference with physical laws.
And yet that morning had proved that the desired change had been
accomplished, even more thoroughly than he had hoped. The dangerous
period of transition had been safely passed, and the beautiful
face expressed that which was more than womanly refinement, thought
and culture. These elements would develop with time. But the
countenance on which he had seen the impress of vanity, pride,
and insincerity, and later the despair of a wronged and desperate
woman, had grown open and childlike again as she told him her story
and read to Mr. Eltinge; and in it, as through a clear transparency,
he had witnessed the kindling light of the Christian faith his
mother had taught him to respect at least, long years before.
He had left the garden with the belief that he had secured the
friendship of this rare Undine, and that she would bring to his
art an inspiration like that of which he was so grandly conscious
while making the picture in which she formed the loveliest feature.
He had expected with instinctive certainty that she would now be drawn
towards the woman he hoped to make his wife, and that friendships
would be cemented that would last through life.
But in suggesting this hope and expectation to Ida it had been as
if a cloud had suddenly passed before the sun, and now the whole
sky was darkening. Jennie Burton seemed more shadowy and remote
than ever--more wrapped up in a past in which she had no part; and
the maiden into whose very soul he thought he had looked became
inscrutable again in the distant courtesy of her manner. Even
during the brief hour of dinner he was led to feel that he had no
inevitable place in the thoughts of either of the ladies, and this
impression was increased as he sought their society later in the
Moreover, in his changed mood he again began to chafe irritably at
Ida's associations. She herself had been thoroughly redeemed in
an artistic point of view, and it was his nature to look at things
in this light. While he shuddered at her terrible purpose he
recognized the high, strong spirit which in it perversion and wrong
had rendered the deed possible, and her dark design made a grand
and sombre background against which the maiden he had sketched that
morning was all the more luminous. Hitherto everything connected
with her change of character had been not only conventional, but
had appealed to his aesthetic temperament as singularly beautiful.
The quaint garden with its flowers, brook, and allegorical tree
were associations that harmonized with Ida's loveliness, while
Mr. Eltinge, who had rendered such an immeasurable service to them
both, realized his best ideal of dignified and venerable age.
But when he compared her spiritual father with the man she expected
that night, he found his whole nature becoming full of irritable
protest and dissatisfaction.
"This morning," he muttered, "she appeared capable of realizing a
poet's dreams, but already I see the hard and prosaic conditions
of her lot dwarfing her growth and throwing their grotesque shadows
across her beauty. What can she do while inseparable from such
a father and mother? The more unlike them she becomes the more
hideous they will appear. Mrs. Mayhew is essentially lacking
in womanly delicacy, and mere coarseness is more tolerable than
fashionable, veneered vulgarity. Mr. Mayhew is a spiritless wretch
whose only protest against his wife's overbearance and indifference
has been intoxication. Linked on either side to so much deformity,
what chance has the daughter unless she escapes from them and
develops a separate life? But are not the ties of nature too close
to permit such escape, and would it not be wrong to seek it? It
certainly would not be Christian, and I am confident Mr. Eltinge
would not advise it. Her lot is indeed a cruel one. No wonder she
clings to Mr. Eltinge and the garden, and that the outside world
seems full of thorns and thistles. Well, I pity her from the depths
of my heart, and cannot see how she will solve the harsh problem
of her life. I imagine she will soon become discouraged and seek
by marriage to obliterate her present ties as far as possible."
Having reached this unsatisfactory conclusion he threw his sketch
impatiently aside and went down to the piazza. Ida and her mother
were already there, for it was about time for arrivals from the
earlier train. Van Berg felt almost sure that Ida must have been
aware that he was standing near her, but she exhibited no consciousness
of his presence. When a little later they met in promenade she
bowed politely but absently, and in a way that would lead any who
were observing them to think that he was not in her thoughts. So
he was led to believe himself, but Miss Burton, who was reading in
one of the parlor windows, smiled and whispered to herself, "Well
Ida was in hopes that her father would take the first opportunity
of reaching the Lake House, and she was not disappointed. The telegram
had flashed into his leaden-hued life that day like a meteor. Did
it portend good or evil? Evil only, he feared, for it seemed to
him that evil would ever be his portion. It was therefore with a
vague sense of apprehension that he looked forward to meeting his
wife and daughter.
As he emerged from the stage with the others he found Ida half-way
down the steps to greet him.
"I'm so glad you've come!" she said in a low earnest voice, and
she kissed him, not in the old formal way, as if it were the only
proper thing to do, but as a daughter greeting her father. Then,
before he could recover from his surprise, his light travelling
bag was taken from him and the young girl's arm linked lovingly in
his, and he led to Mrs. Mayhew, who also kissed him, but in a way,
it must be admitted, that suggested a duty rather than a pleasure.
Her husband scarcely gave to her a glance, however, but kept his
eyes fixed on his daughter.
"Ida is bewitched," said Mr. Mayhew.
"And I hope you will find me bewitching, father, for I want as
much of your society as you will give me during this visit." She
tried to speak playfully and naturally, but tears were gathering in
her eyes, for his expression of perplexity was singularly pathetic
and full of the keenest reproach. "O God," she murmured, "what have
I been that he should be speechless from surprise, when I merely
greet him as a daughter should!"
Van Berg turned hastily away, for he felt that scenes were coming,
on which he had no right to look. There was nothing yet to indicate
a wish on Ida's part to avoid inartistic associations, and deep in
his heart he was compelled to admit that she had never appeared so
supremely beautiful as when she looked love and welcome into the
eyes of the smirched and disheartened man to whom nature gave the
best right to claim these gifts.
"Come with me, father," said Ida, trying to give him a reassuring
smile, "and I will answer your scared and questioning glances in
your room," and he went with her as if walking in a dream.
Tears now gathered in Jennie Burton's eyes, but she smiled again
as she thought, "Better done still, Ida Mayhew, and Mr. Van Berg,
who is stalking away so rapidly yonder, is not the man I think
him, if you have not now made your best and deepest impression on
"Ida," her father faltered, after they had reached the privacy of
his room, "what does your telegram mean? What is important?"
"YOU are to me. O father, please, please forgive me," and she put
her arms around his neck and burst into a passion of tears.
The bewildered man began to tremble. "Can it--can it be that my
daughter has a heart?" he muttered.
"Yes, father, but it's broken because of my cruel treatment of you;
I now hope better days are coming for us all."
He held her away from him and looked into her face with a longing
intensity that suggested a soul perishing for the lack of love and
"Father, father, I can't bear that look. Oh, God forgive me, how
I have wronged you!" and she buried her face on his shoulder again.
"Ida," he said, slowly and pleadingly, "be very careful--be sure this
is not a passing impulse, a mere remorseful twinge of conscience.
I've been hoping for years--I would have prayed, if I dared to--for
some token that I was not a burden to you and your mother. You
seemed to love me some when you were little, but as you grew older
you grew away from me. I've tried to forget that I had a heart.
I've tried to become a beast because it was agony to be a man. why
I have lived I scarcely know. I thought I had suffered all that I
could suffer in this world, but I was mistaken. I left this place
last Monday with the fear that my beautiful daughter was giving
her love to a man even baser than I am, base and low from choice,
base and corrupt in every fibre of his soul and body, and from
that hour to this it has seemed as if I were ground between two
millstones," and he shuddered as if smitten with an ague. "Ida,"
he concluded piteously, "I'm too weak, I'm too far gone to bear
disappointment. This is more than an impulse, is it not? You will
not throw yourself away? Oh, Ida, my only child, if you could be
in heart what you were in your face as you greeted me to-night, I
could die content!"
For a few minutes the poor girl could only sob convulsively on his
breast. At last she faltered brokenly:
"Yes, father--it is an impulse--an impulse from heaven; but I shall
pray daily that it be not a passing one. I--I have lost confidence
in myself, but with my Saviour's help, I will try to be a loving
daughter to you and make your wishes first in everything."
"Great God!" he muttered, "can this be true?"
"Yes, father, because God IS great, and very, VERY, kind."
His bent form became erect and almost steely in its tenseness. He
gently but firmly placed her in a chair, and then paced the room
rapidly a moment or two, his dark eyes glowing with a strong and
kindling excitement. Ida began to regard him with wonder and almost
alarm. Suddenly he raised his hand to heaven, and said solemnly:
"This shall be no one-sided affair so help me God!"
Then opening his valise, he took out a bottle of brandy and thew
it, with a crash, into the empty grate.
Ida sprang towards him with a glad cry, exclaiming, "O father, now
I understand you! Thank God! thank God!"
He kissed her tearful, upturned face again and again, as if he
found there the very elixir of life.
"Ida, my dear little Ida," he said, huskily, "you have saved your
father from a drunkard's end--from a drunkard's grave. I was in
a drunkard's hell already."
Mr. Mayhew requested that supper should be served in his own room,
for neither he nor his daughter was in a mood to meet strangers
that evening. Ida called her mother, and tried to explain to her
why they did not wish to go down, but the poor woman was not able
to grasp very much of the truth, and was decidedly mystified by the
domestic changes which she had very limited power to appreciate,
and in which she had so little part. She was not a coarse woman,
but matter of fact, superficial, and worldly to the last degree.
Van Berg could scarcely believe his eyes when Mr. Mayhew came down to
breakfast with his family Sunday morning. The bondman had become
free; the slave of a degrading vice had been transformed into
a quiet, dignified gentleman. His form was erect, and while his
bearing was singularly modest and retiring, there was nothing of
the old cowering, shrinking manner which suggested defeat, loss of
self-respect, and hopeless dejection. All who knew him instinctively
felt that the prostrate man had risen to his feet, and there was
something in his manner that made them believe he would hold his
footing among other men hereafter.
The artist found himself bowing to the "spiritless wretch" with a
politeness that was by no means assumed, and from the natural and
almost cordial manner in which Mr. Mayhew returned his salutation,
he was very glad to believe that Ida had not told him the deeper
and darker secrets of her experience during the past week.
"This is her work," he thought, and Ida's radiant face confirmed
the impression. She then felt that after her father's words, "You
have saved me," she could never be very unhappy again. A hundred
times she had murmured, "Oh, how much better God's way out of
trouble has been than mine!"