Part 8 out of 10
Mr. Mayhew had always had peculiar attractions for Miss Burton,
and they at once entered into conversation. But as she recognized
the marvellous change in him, the pleased wonder of her face grew
so apparent, that he replied to it in low tones:
"I now believe in your 'remedies,' Miss Burton; but a great deal
depends on who administers them. My little girl and I have been
discovering how nearly related we are."
Her eyes grew moist with her sympathy and gladness. "Mr. Mayhew,"
she said, "I'm inclined to think that heaven is always within a
step or two of us, if we could only take the right steps."
"To me it has seemed beyond the farthest star," he replied, very
gravely. "To some, however, the word is as indefinite as the place,
and a cessation of pain appears heaven. I could be content to ask
nothing better than this Sabbath morning has brought me. I have
found what I thought lost forever."
Jennie Burton became very pale, as deep from her heart rose the
query, "Shall I ever find what I have lost?" Then with a strong
instinct to maintain her self-control and shun a perilous nearness
to her hidden sorrow, she changed the subject.
It was touching to see how often Mr. Mayhew's eyes turned towards
his daughter, as if to reassure himself that the change in her
manner towards him was not a dream, and the expression of her face
as she met his scrutiny seemed to brighten and cheer him like a
"What heavenly magic is transforming Miss Mayhew?" Jennie Burton
asked of Van Berg, as they sauntered out on the piazza.
"With your wonted felicity, you express it exactly," he replied.
"It is a heavenly magic which I don't understand in the least,
but must believe in, since cause and effect are directly under my
eyes. It has been my good fortune to witness as beautiful a scene
as ever mortal saw. Since she refers naturally and openly to the
friends whom she has visited during the past week, I may tell you
about Mr. Eltinge's influence and teaching without violating any
confidence," and in harmony with the frank and friendly relations
which he now sustained to Miss Burton, he related his experience
of the previous day, remaining scrupulously reticent on every
point, however, that he even imagined Ida would wish veiled from
the knowledge of others. "I cannot tell you," he concluded, "how
deeply the scene affected me. It not only awoke all the artist in
me, but the man also. In one brief hour I learned to revere that
noble old gentleman, and if you could have seen him leaning against
the emblematic tree, as I did, I think he would have realized your
ideal of age, wholly devoid of weakness and bleakness. And then
Miss Mayhew's face, as she read and listened to him, seemed indeed,
in its contrast with what we have seen during the past summer, the
result of 'heavenly magic.' It will be no heavy task to fulfil the
conditions on which I was permitted to enter the enchanted garden.
They expect more pencil sketches, but I shall eventually give them
as truthful a picture as I am capable of painting, for it is rare
good fortune to find themes so inspiring."
Guarded as Van Berg was in his narrative, Miss Burton was able
to read more "between the lines" than in his words. He did not
understand her motive when she said, as if it were her first obvious
"The picture which you have presented, even to the eye of my fancy,
is uniquely beautiful, and I think it must redeem Miss Mayhew
in your mind, from all her disagreeable associations. But in my
estimation she appeared to even better advantage in the greeting
she gave her father last evening. Was there ever a more delicious
surprise on earth, than that poor man had when he returned and
found a true and loving daughter awaiting him? With her filial
hands she has already lifted him out of the mire of his degradation,
and to-day he is a gentleman whom you involuntarily respect. O
Mr. Van Berg, I cannot tell ou how inexpressibly beautiful and
reassuring such things are to me! You look at the changes we are
witnessing from the standpoint of an artist, I from that of poor
wounded humanity; and what I have seen in Ida Mayhew and her father,
is proof to me that there is a good God above all the chaos around
me, which I cannot understand and which at times disheartens me.
Their happier and ennobled faces are a prophecy and an earnest of
that time when the sway of evil shall be broken, when famishing
souls and empty hearts shall be filled, when broken, thwarted lives
are made perfect, and what was missed and lost regained."
She looked away from him into the summer sky, which the sun was
flooding with cloudless light. There were no tears in her eyes,
but an expression of intense and sorrowful longing that was far
beyond such simple and natural expression.
"Jennie Burton," said Van Berg, in a low, earnest voice, "there
are times when I could suffer all things to make you happy."
She started as if she had almost forgotten his presence, and answered
quietly: "You could not make me happy by suffering. Only as I
can banish a little pain and gloom here and there do I find solace.
But I can do so very, very little. It reassures me to see God
doing this work in his grand, large way. And yet it seems to me
that he might brighten the world as the sun fills this sky with
light. As it is, the rays that illumine hearts and faces glint
only here and there between the threatening clouds of evil. Mr.
Van Berg, you do not know--you never realized how shadowed humanity
is. Within a mile of your studio, that is full of light and beauty,
there are thousands who are perishing in a slow, remorseless pain.
It is this awful mystery of evil--this continuous groan and cry
of anguish that has gone up to heaven through all the ages--that
appalls my heart and staggers my faith. But there--after what I have
seen to-day I have no right to such gloomy thoughts. I suppose my
religion seems to you no more than a clinging faith in a far-away,
incomprehensible God, and so is not very attractive? I wish I could
suggest to you something more satisfactory, but since I cannot I'll
leave you to find better influences."
"It does seem to me that rash, faulty Ida Mayhew has a better
faith than this," he thought; "she believes she has found a near
and helpful Friend, while my sad-eyed saint has only a God, and is
always in pathetic doubt whether her prayer can bridge the infinite
distance between them. Who is right? Is either right? I used to
be impressed with how much I knew; I'm glad the opposite impression
is becoming so strong, for, as Miss Burton says, the hopeless fools
are those who never find themselves out.
"She was right. Ida Mayhew will ever appear to better advantage
in aiding her poor father to regain his manhood, than by the most
artistic combination of circumstances that I could imagine. All
the man in me recognizes the sacredness of the duty and the beauty
of its performance. And yet but yesterday I was stupid enough to
believe that her best chance for development was to escape from her
father and live a separate life. It has taken only a few hours to
prove how superficial was my philosophy of life. Guided simply by
the instinct of love and duty, this faulty girl has accomplished
more than I had supposed possible. But her mother will continue
a thorn in her side," and Van Berg was not far astray.
Chapter XLVI. A Resolute Philosopher.
Mr. Mayhew attended church with his family that morning--a thing
that he had not done for years--and in the afternoon Ida took
him to see her spiritual birthplace, and to call on her spiritual
father. The welcome that old Mr. Eltinge gave, and the words he
spoke, did much towards establishing in the man who had been so
disheartened, hope that a new and better future was opening before
When about to part he put his left arm around his daughter, and
giving his hand to Mr. Eltinge, said, with a voice broken by his
"I am bewildered yet. I can't understand my happiness. Yesterday
I was perishing in a boundless desert. To-day the desert has
vanished, and I'm in this sweet old garden. There are no flowers
or fruits in it, however, that can compare with the love and truth
I now see in this child's face. I won't speak of the service you
have rendered us both. It's beyond all words."
It was indeed greater than he knew, for Id had concluded never
to speak again of her terrible secret. God had forgiven her, and
nothing was to be gained by any reference to a subject that had
become inexpressibly painful. "Remember," said the staunch and
faithful old man as they were about to drive away, "nothing good
lasts unless built up from the Author of all good. Unless you act
on this truth you'll find yourself in the desert again, and all
you are now enjoying will seem like a mirage."
Poor Mr. Mayhew could not endure to lose a moment of his daughter's
society, for the long thirst of years was to be slaked. They
took a round-about way home, and the summer evening deepened into
twilight and dusk before they approached the hotel.
"See, father, there is the new moon, and it hangs over your right
shoulder," cried Ida, gleefully.
"It's over your right shoulder, too, and that thought pleases me
better still. I wish I could make you very happy. Tell me what
I can do for you."
"Take me to New York with you to-morrow," said Ida, promptly.
"Now you are trying to make a martyr of yourself for me. You forget
how hot and dusty the city is in August."
"I'm going with you," she said decisively, "unless you say no."
"I'm going to spend part of the time with you until your vacation
begins next month, and then we'll explore every nook and corner of
"There Ida, say no more to-day. My cup is overflowing now, and
the fear is already growing that such happiness won't last--can't
last in a world like ours."
"Father," said Ida, gently, "I've found a Friend that has promised
me more than present happiness. He has promised me eternal life.
He is pledged to make all seemingly evil result in my final good.
How it can be I don't see at all, but I'm trying to take him at
his word. You must not worry if I'm not always in good spirits. I
suppose every one in the world has a burden to carry, but I don't
think it can crush us if our Saviour helps us carry it. My faith
is very simple, you see; I feel I'm like one of those little children
he took in his arms and blessed, and I'm sure his blessing is not
an empty form. It has made me love and trust him, and that's all
the religion I have or know anything about. You must not expect
great things of me; you must not watch me too closely. Just let
me take my own quiet way in life, for I want my life henceforth to
be as quiet and unobtrusive as the little brook that runs through
Mr. Eltinge's garden, that is often in the shade, you know, as
well as in the light, but Mr. Eltinge lets it flow after its own
fashion; so you must let me. I'll always try to make a little
low, sweet music for you, if not for the world. So please do not
commence puzzling your poor tired brain how to make me happy or
gay, or want to take me here and there. Just leave me to myself;
let me have my own way for awhile at least; and if you can do
anything for me I promise to tell you."
Ever since her drive with Van Berg the previous day, there had been
a deep undercurrent of thought in Ida's mind, and she had at last
concluded that she could scarcely keep her secret with any certainty
while under his eyes, and especially those of Miss Burton. She was
too direct and positive in her nature, and her love was too strong
and absorbing for the cool and indifferent bearing she was trying
to maintain. Her eyes, her cheeks, her tones, and even words,
might prove traitors at any time and betray her. She longed to be
alone, and teh large empty city house seemed the quiet refuge that
she needed. At the same time it would give her deep satisfaction
to be with her father after hs return from business, and make amends
for years of neglect.
He looked at her wistfully, feeling, in a vague way, that he did
not understand her yet. There was a minor chord in her voice,
and there had been a sadness in her eyes at times which began to
suggest to him that he had not learned all the causes that were so
marvellously transforming her form her old self. Her mother would
question and question. He, on the contrary, would wait patiently
till the confidence was given, and so he merely said gently,
"All right, little girl; I'll try to make you happy in your own
Van Berg, going out for a walk after tea, again heard the girlish
voice singing the quaint hymn tune that had awakened the memories
of his childhood the previous day. He instantly concealed himself
by the roadside, and in a moment or two Ida and her father drove
by. He was able in the dusk to note only that her head rested on
her father's shoulder, and her voice was sweet and plaintive as
she sang words that he could not hear distinctly, but which were
as follows, as far as he could catch them:
I know not the way he is leading me
But I know he is leading me home;
Though lonely the path and dark to me,
It is safe and it wends to my home.
Home of the blest,
Home that is rest
To the weary pilgrim's feet, to the weary pilgrim's heart.
and then her words were lost in the distance.
With an impulse he did not think of resisting he followed them back
to the hotel and waited patiently till she and her father came out
"Miss Mayhew," he said, a little discontentedly, "I have scarcely
had a chance to say a word to you to-day, and it seems to me that
I have a great deal to say."
She looked at him with some surprise as she replied, "Well, I think
I might at least become a good listener."
"Do you mean a patient one?"
"I never had any patience," she answered, with something like a
"And I was never so possessed by the demon of impatience as I have
been this afternoon. There hasn't been a soul around that I cared
to talk with, and if you knew how out of conceit I am with my own
company, you would feel some commiseration. How I envied you your
visit to the garden this afternoon, for I felt sure you took your
father thither. May I not go with you again to-morrow, or soon? I
wish to make my sketch more accurate before beginning your picture."
She hesitated a moment, and he little know how he was tempting her.
Then she replied, so quietly and decisively as to seem almost cold,
"Mr. Eltinge, I'm sure, will be very glad to see you, but I shall
go to the city with my father in the morning and remain in town
all the week." She was puzzled at his unmistakable expression of
regret and disappointment, and added, hastily, "Mr. Van Berg, you
are taking far too much trouble. I would be more satisfied--I
would be delighted with such a sketch as you made to-day, with the
omission of myself."
"But if, instead of being trouble, it gave me great pleasure to
make the picture with the utmost care?"
"I suppose," she replied, "that you have a high artistic sense that
must be satisfied, and that you see imperfections that I cannot."
"You are too severe upon me, Miss Mayhew, but since you have such
good reason, I cannot complain. Still, in justice to myself, I
must say that satisfying my artistic sense was not my motive."
"I did not mean to be severe--I do not mean what you think," Ida
began, very eagerly. Then she checked herself and added, after a
moment, with a slight tinge of sadness in her tone, "I fear we are
fated to misunderstand each other. Good-night, Mr. Van Berg," and
she turned decisively away and joined her father who was talking
The artist was both hurt and perplexed, and he abruptly left the
hall and started again on the walk which had been so unexpectedly
interrupted. He strode away through the starlight with a swiftness
that was scarcely in harmony with the warm, still summer night.
Before he was aware of it he was a mile away. Stopping suddenly
"I won't be so baffled and puzzled. I will learn to understand
this Ida Mayhew before this summer is over. It's ridiculous that
I should be so dull and stupid. She says she fears we are 'fated
to misunderstand each other.' I defy such a blind stupid fate. I
used to have some brains and tact before I came to this place, and
I scarcely think I've become an idiot. I am determined to win that
girl's friendship, and I intend to follow her career and watch the
rare and beautiful development of her character. That one hour in
the garden yesterday taught me what an inspiration her exquisite
beauty can be in my profession, and surely with the vantage-ground I
already possess I ought to have skill enough to win a place among
her friends," and he walked back almost as quickly as he had stalked
Ida had seen his departure and recognized the fact that she had
hurt his feelings. It was strange that so little a thing could
depress her so greatly, for she felt that the first real Sabbath
she had ever spent and which had been in truth a SUN-day to her
thus far, was now ending in shadows darker than the night. "How
weak I am," she thought; "I must go away as soon as possible,
or else I shall be sorry. The companionship that he can give so
easily and frankly when Miss Burton is not at hand to occupy him is
impossible for me, and would only end in the betrayal of a secret
that I would hide even more anxiously than the crime I could
not conceal from him. My duty and my father must be everything
hereafter," and she turned resolutely to him, saying:
"Father, take a seat in the parlor while I go and find mother. I
want these people to see that you have a family who at least show
that they appreciate all the luxuries and comforts you are providing
Mr. Mayhew was more deeply gratified by her words than she
could understand, for any recognition of his manhood and rightful
position which was quiet and unobtrusive, was balm and healing to
his wounded self-respect. Hitherto he had believed correctly that
his family wished to keep him out of sight, and at no time before
had he realized the change that had taken place in Ida more keenly
than when she made this simple and natural proposition. His grateful
smile as he complied with her request did her good, but she soon
discovered that in her mother she had a very difficult subject
to manage. She found that lady in her room wearing a gloomy and
"You have condescended at last to come and see whether I was alive,
I see," she said, as Ida entered the room.
Her daughter went directly to her and kissing her replied, "We haven't
intended to leave you so long or to neglect you in the least, and
"Oh, no need of explaining. Excuses always make matters worse.
Here is the fact--I've been left all the afternoon to myself."
"Have you noticed no other fact to-day, mother?" asked Ida, gravely.
"Yes, I've noticed that you and your father have been so wrapped
up in each other that I'm nobody, and might as well be Mrs. John
Smith as Mrs. Mayhew."
"Pardon me, mother, you are exaggerating," said Ida, firmly.
"Father was very polite to you at breakfast and dinner, and he went
to church with you this morning, and I can scarcely remember when
he has done this before. I am chiefly to blame for keeping him
away so long this afternoon, for I wanted him to see and talk with
my friend Mr. Eltinge, who has done me so much good. I thought
he might help father too, and I truly believe he has. I repeat to
you again, in all sincerity and love, that we have not intended to
neglect you, and father now wishes you to come down and join him in
the parlor, so that we can, as a family, at last appear as we ought
before the world. In the name of all that is sacred, encourage dear
father now that he is trying to be what we have so often wished."
But Mrs. Mayhew's pets were like spells of bad weather and would
run their course. She only looked more gloomy and injured than
ever as she replied:
"It's all very well to talk. Mr. Mayhew must be encouraged and
coaxed to do what any man ought to do. I might have enjoyed a ride
this evening as well as your father."
"You said it was too warm to go out after dinner."
"Well, you might have waited till it wasn't too warm."
A sudden scarlet burned in Ida's cheeks, and there came an ominous
sparkle in her eyes. "Mother," she said so abruptly and sternly
that the lady looked up wonderingly, and encountered an expression
in her daughter's face that awakened an undefined fear. In tones
that were low, indignant, and authoritative Ida continued:
"I request--I demand that you cease this nonsense at once. As
a Christian woman you ought to be on your knees thanking God that
your husband is not lying intoxicated on that sofa, as he was last
Sunday at this time. You ought to be thanking God that he is
becoming his former self, and winning respect by acting like a true
gentleman. It was our unutterable folly that was destroying him,
and I say this folly must and shall cease. I will not permit my
father's sensitive nature to be wounded as it has been. You shall
not spoil this first bright day he has had after so many years.
If you care for him why don't you try to win his affection? and
whoever heard of a heart being won by whining and fault-finding?
But of this be sure, you shall not spoil this day. I charge you as
a wife and a lady to cease this childish petulance, and come down
"Oh!" said Mrs. Mayhew, rising mechanically, "if you are going to
make a scene---"
"I am going to prevent scenes," said Ida, with all her old time
imperiousness. "I insist that we appear in the future like a quiet,
well-bred family, and I warn you that I will permit my father to
be trifled with no longer. He SHALL have a chance. Wait, let me
help you make a more becoming toilet for Sunday evening."
Ida was very strongly aroused, and the superior nature mastered the
weaker. Mrs. Mayhew became as wax in her hands, although she made
many natural and irritable protests against her daughter speaking
to her as she had done. Ida paid no heed to her mother's words,
and after giving a few finishing touches to her dress relieved her
sternness by a judicious compliment, "I wish you to take the seat
father is reserving for you," she said, "and appear the charming
lady that you know how to be so well;" and without further parley
they went down together.
Once in the social eye it would be Mrs. Mayhew's strongest impulse
to make a good impression, and she behaved beautifully. Something
in Ida's manner puzzled her father, but she smiled so reassuringly
that he gave himself up to the quiet enjoyment of the situation
that was so natural and yet so novel. He listened with a pleased
expression to the music, and noted, with deep satisfaction, the
friendly and respectful bearing of those near, towards both his
wife and himself; but he exulted in the evident admiration that
his daughter excited. The people at the Lake House had already
discovered that there was a decided change for the better in the
Mayhew family, and they greeted the improvement with a kindly but
well-bred and unobtrusive welcome that was creditable to human
nature. Of course there was a great deal of whispered surmise,
but nothing offensive to the eye.
Stanton came and asked Ida to join in the singing at the piano,
but she shook her head decidedly.
"Who has been hurting your feelings?" he asked, in a low tone.
By a scarcely perceptible gesture, she put her finger on her lips
and said quietly, "They are waiting for you, Cousin Ik." Then she
added, with a smile, "Somewhere I've heard a proverb expressing
surprise that Saul should be among the prophets. I hardly think
it will be in good taste for me to appear among them just yet."
"And I once believed her to be a fool," thought Stanton as he
returned to his place.
Again, on this Sunday evening, keen eyes were watching her from
the dusky piazza, but so far from being wolfish and ravenous, they
were full of sympathy and admiration.
As Van Berg approached the parlor windows after his return, he saw
Stanton standing by the piano at Jennie Burton's side, and she was
looking up to him and speaking in a very friendly manner. He was
not conscious of any appropriate pangs of jealousy, and indeed
did not miss their absence, but he looked eagerly around for the
problem his philosophical mind was so bent on solving.
At first the favorable impression made by the reunited family caught
his attention, and he muttered, "There is some more of her magic.
But what is the matter with Miss Mayhew herself. Her eyes are
burning with a fire that is anything but tender and sacred, and
there are moments when her face is almost stern, and again it is
full of trouble."
Some one discovered him on the piazza, and there was a general
wish expressed that he should sing with Miss Burton a duet that
had become a favorite. After this and one or two other pieces,
he again sought his place of observation. The color and fire had
now wholly faded from Miss Mayhew's face, and she looked pale and
sad. Her father turned to her, and said:
"Ida, I fear you don't feel well."
"I'm very tired, and think I had better go to my room."
He rose instantly, and gave her his arm, but on the way she reassured
him: "A night's sleep, and the rest I shall have with you in the
city are just what I need; so don't worry, for I shall be ready to
take the train with you in the morning;" and Mr. Mayhew rejoined
his wife, and completed a happier day than he ever expected to see
But poor Ida, when left alone, buried her face in her hands
and sobbed, "I've wounded HIS feelings, I've given way to my old
passionate anger, I've spoken to mother as a daughter never should.
What will ever become of faulty Ida Mayhew? The worm-eaten emblem
is true of me still."
Then, as if whispered to her by some good angel, the words Mr.
Eltinge had spoken recurred to her. "Your Saviour will be as tender
and patient with you as a mother with her baby that is learning to
"Oh," she cried, in a low, passionate tone, "that is the kind of
a God I need!"
She also remembered the reassuring words that Mr. Eltinge had
quoted--"As one whom his mother comforteth so will I comfort you,"
and the promise was made good to her.
"Stanton," said Van Berg, a little abruptly, before they parted
that evening, "I fear, from your cousin's appearance, she was ill
when she left the parlor."
"I've given up trying to understand Ida. When she came down with
her mother, she looked like an incensed goddess, and when she
returned she reminded me of the fading white lily she wore in her
hair. I give it up," concluded Stanton, whose language had become
a trifle figurative and poetic of late.
"I don't," muttered the artist, after smoking the third consecutive
cigar in solitude.
Chapter XLVII. The Concert Garden Again.
Van Berg had scarcely ever known a day to pass more slowly and
heavily than Monday. He had taken pains to be present at Ida's
departure with her father, and it had depressed him unaccountably
that she had been so quiet as to seem even a little cold in her
farewell. She would not look towards him, nor could he catch her
eye or obtain one friendly expression. He did not know that the
poor girl dared not smile or speak lest she should be too friendly,
and that she avoided him with the instinct of self-preservation.
His conclusion was: "She finds, after thinking it all over, that
she has far more to forgive than she thought, and my presence
reminds her of everything she would be glad to forget."
He tried once or twice to find Jennie Burton, but did not succeed.
She made no apparent effort to avoid him, and was so cordial in
her manner when they met that he had severe compunctions that he
did not seek her society resolutely and press his suit. "The summer
is drawing to a close," he muttered, "and nothing is settled. Confound
it all! I'm the least settled of anything. The best chance I shall
ever have is passing swiftly. Ever faculty I possess assures me
that she is the one woman of all the world. I honor her, I reverence
her, I admire her and everything she does and says. I trust her
implicitly, even though she is so shrouded in mystery. What the
mischief is the matter with my old water-logged heart that it should
be so heavy and dumpish?"
But so it was. Jennie Burton smiled on him and others as brightly
as ever, and yet he knew her heart was breaking, for she was growing
slighter and more spirit-like daily. His desire to comfort her,
however, by a life-long effort ebbed away, till he was cursing himself
for a fickle, cold-blooded wretch. "I had better shut myself up
in my studio," he said to himself. "I may make a painter, but I
never will anything else;" and early on Tuesday he went doggedly
to work on Mr. Eltinge's picture.
His perplexed and jarring thoughts gradually ceased their discord
as he became absorbed in his loved and familiar tasks. Sweet and
low at first, and in the faint, broken suggestion of his kindling
fancy, the symphonic poem he had heard in the garden began again,
but at last his imagination made it almost real. He listened once
more to Ida's girlish, plaintive voice blending with the murmur of
the brook, the sighing wind and rustling leaves, and the occasional
trill of a bird. He leaned back in his chair, and his eyes became
full of deep and dreamy pleasure. Gradually a heavy frown contracted
his brow, and his face grew white and stern as he repeated words
that she once had spoken to him: "I meant to compel your respect,
and I thought there was no other way."
"Pharisee, fool that I was! If I had been kind and trustful at
the time her family wronged her, she would not now shrink from me
as if I summed up in my person the whole of that wretched experience.
Even Stanton appreciated my unutterable folly, for he said: "You
looked at her in a way that would have frozen even Jezebel herself,"
and now whenever I glance towards her she is reminded of that
accursed stare. Would it be possible, in painting her likeness
for Mr. Eltinge, to make her face so noble, womanly, and pure, that
she would recognize my present estimate of her character, and so
forgive me in very truth?"
The care and earnestness with which he filled in the outlines of
his sketch proved how zealously he would make the effort. In the
afternoon he drove over to the garden again, and made a careful
drawing of the tree and of Mr. Eltinge sitting beneath it, for Ida,
and he determined to go to the city the following day the he might
avail himself of the resources of his studio, and by the aid of this
hasty sketch make as fine a crayon picture as would be possible,
before her return on Saturday.
The old gentleman's heart was naturally warm towards his protege,
whom they both missed greatly, and he spoke of her often. He could
not help noticing that the artist was ever an excellent listener
at such times and would even suspend his work for a moment that he
might not lose a word. "It seems to me he takes a wonderful deal
of interest in her for a man who is seeking to engage himself
to another lady," mused Mr. Eltinge. "I think the other lady had
better be looking after him."
As Van Berg approached the hotel, he saw Miss Burton mounting the
steps with a quantity of ferns in her hands. She evidently was
returning from a long ramble, and when she came down to supper he
saw that she had not been able to remove wholly all traces of grief.
His conscience smote him sorely. He hesitated in his purpose
of going to the city, and determined to speak of it frankly, and
abandon it, if she showed, even by the expression of her face,
that she would prefer he would remain, but he found himself both
surprised and relieved that, so far from manifesting the least
reluctance to have him go, she encouraged the plan.
"You have a noble theme," she said cordially, "and you can't do
it justice in the room of a summer hotel. Besides I do think you
owe it to Miss Mayhew to make all the amends in your power, and
a fine picture of that emblematic tree, and her kind old friend
beneath it, may be of very great help to her in her new life. I
hope you will take me to see Mr. Eltinge on your return."
"I'll wait over a day and take you there to-morrow," he said
"No," she replied decisively; "you have not enough time as it is,
before Saturday, to do justice to your work, and I want you to make
Miss Mayhew's friend look as if he were speaking to her."
"Miss Jennie," said the artist rather impulsively, "you haven't a
drop of selfish blood in your little body."
"I am under the impression that Mr. Van Berg's estimates of his lady
acquaintances are not always correct. Not that I was any wiser,
but then such positive assertions seem hardly the thing from people
who have shown themselves so fallible."
"I'm right for once," Van Berg insisted. "Do you know that Miss
Mayhew and I nearly had a falling out. Indeed she has been rather
cool towards me ever since, and you were the cause. I believed
with absolute certainty that the new Ida Mayhew that I had learned
to know in Mr. Eltinge's garden would gravitate towards you as
surely as two drops of dew run together when brought sufficiently
near, and I began to speak quite enthusiastically of what friends
you would surely become, when Miss Mayhew's manner taught me I had
better change the subject. Oddly enough, she has never liked you,
and yet, in justice to her, I must add that she acted conscientiously,
and I have never heard one lady speak of another more favorably and
sincerely, than she spoke of you, though it seemingly cost her an
A sudden moisture came into Jennie Burton's eyes, and she said
under her breath: "Poor child! that was noble and generous of her
to speak so of me. Oh, how blind he is!" But with mock gravity
she answered him:
"Your rather sentimental figure of speech, Mr. Van Berg, shows
where your error lies. Miss Mayhew and myself are not pellucid
drops of dew that you look through at a glance. We are women: and
the one thing in this world which men never will learn to understand
is a woman. I'm going to puzzle you still further. I am learning
to have a very thorough respect for Miss Mayhew. I am beginning to
admire her exceedingly, and to think that she is growing exquisitely
beautiful; and yet were she here this week you would find that I
would not seek her society. Give your mind to your art, and never
hope to untangle the snarl of a woman's mind. Men, in attempting
such folly, have become hopelessly entangled. Take a woman's word
for it--what you see you can't reason out. I've no doubt but that
Miss Mayhew has excellent reasons for disliking me, and the fact
that you can't understand them is nothing against them."
"Miss Jennie," said Van Berg resolutely, "for once I cannot take
your word for it. You two ladies have puzzled me all summer, and
I'll never be content till I solve the mysteries which so baffle
me. My interest is not curiosity, but friendship, to say the
least, that I hope will last through life. You will tell me some
day all your trouble, and you will feel the better for telling me."
She became very pale at these words, and said gravely: "I cannot
promise that--I doubt it. You may have to trust me blindly till
you forget me."
"I do not trust you blindly; I never will forget you," he began,
"Good-night, Mr. Van Berg," she said, and in a moment he was alone
on the piazza.
"She is an angel of light, he muttered, "and not a woman. I could
worship her, but I'm too earthy in my nature to lover her as I
He took the earliest train to New York, and so had a long afternoon
in his studio. He was surprised to find how absorbed he soon became
in his work. "Miss Jennie is right," he thought; "I'm an artist,
and not a reformer or a metaphysician, and I had better spend my
time here than in trying to solve feminine enigmas;" and he worked
like a beaver until the fading light compelled him to desist.
"There," he said, "that is a fair beginning. Two or three more
days of work like this will secure me, I think, a friendlier glance
than Miss Ida gave me last." From which words it might be gathered
that he was thinking of other rewards than mere success in his art.
In the evening the wand of Theodore Thomas had a spell which
he never thought of resisting, and it must be admitted that there
lurked in his mind the hope that Ida and her father might be drawn
to the concert garden also. If so, he was sure he would pursue
He was rewarded, for Mr. Mayhew and his daughter soon entered and
took seats in the main lobby, where he and Stanton had sat nearly
three months before. Van Berg congratulated himself that he was
outside in the promenade, and so had not been observed; and he sought
a dusky seat from which he might seek some further knowledge of a
character that had won and retained a deepening interest from the
time of their first meeting, which now seemed an age ago. Events
mark time more truthfully than the course of the sun.
At first she seemed only solicitous about her father, who lighted
a cigar and said something to her that must have been very reassuring
and pleasant, for a glad smile broke over her pale face. But it
vanished quickly, and the artist saw that her habitual expression
was sad, and even dejected. She did not look around with the breezy
alertness natural to a young girl in such a place. The curiously
diverse people around her excited no interest, and she appeared
inclined to lapse into deep reveries, even when the music was
light and gay, as was the character of the earlier part of the
entertainment. At times she would start perceptibly when her father
spoke to her, and hesitate in her answer, as if she had to recall
her thoughts from far-off wanderings. It would seem that Mr.
Mayhew was troubled by her sad face and absent manner. He justly
felt that the brilliant music ought to enliven her like sunlight;
and that it did not proved the presence of some intervening cloud.
Van Berg's sympathies and interest at last became so strong that
he determined to speak to her at once, but before he could take
a step towards her the orchestra began playing Beethoven's Fifth
Symphony, the very music she ignored for the sake of Mr. Minty's
compliments when first she had so exasperated him by her marvellously
perfect features, but disagreeable face. He had not looked at the
programme, and that this symphony should now be repeated seemed
such a fortunate coincidence that he could not resist the temptation
of contrasting the woman before him with the silly and undeveloped
girl he first had seen. Moreover, he knew that the music must
remind her of him, and he might gain a hint of her present feelings
toward him. Either the beauty or something familiar in the exquisite
strains soon caught her attention, and she took up her programme,
which hitherto had lain neglected on her lap. She crimsoned
instantly, and her brow contracted into a frown; a moment later an
expression of intense disgust passed over her face.
"Now I know what she thinks of me," he thought with a sinking
heart. "I doubt whether I had better speak to her this evening,
and at this place."
"What's the matter, Ida?" asked her father. "Don't you like the
"I have disagreeable associations connected with it. The fault is
wholly in me, and not the music."
"Ida, darling, you are making me so happy that I wish I could do
as much for you."
"Don't worry, father," she said, trying to smile. "I'm happier
than I deserve. Listen!"
As the last exquisite cadences died away, Van Berg saw that there
were tears in her eyes. What did they mean? "Stanton repeated my
harsh words and she recalls them," was the best explanation he could
think of. "By the fates!" he exclaimed, "if there isn't Sibley
with a toilet as spotless as he is himself smirched and blackened.
Curse him! he actually has the impudence to speak to Miss Mayhew,"
and the artist started up threateningly, but before discovering
himself, he remembered that Ida's natural protector was at her
side. And yet he fairly trembled with rage and protest, that this
fellow should be so near her again. He also saw that Mr. Mayhew
rose and looked very menacing. But Ida was equal to the emergency,
and extricated herself with womanly dignity, for while she blushed
scarlet with shame, she was quiet and self-possessed, and paid no
heed to his eagerly proffered hand.
"I was not myself that hateful day, Miss Ida," he said hastily.
"I fear you were, sir," she coldly replied. "At any rate, I am
not my old self, and until you win and maintain the character of
a gentleman, we must be strangers. Good evening, sir;" and she
turned her back upon him.
His face became fairly livid with rage, but on encountering the
stern and threatening eyes of Mr. Mayhew he slunk away and left
"That's my peerless, noble Ida," whispered her father. "Oh thank
God! thank God! I could not have survived if you had realized the
fears I once had about that low scoundrel."
Ida's lip quivered as she said, "Father, please take me home. I
don't enjoy myself here." They had taken but a few steps toward
the door when the artist confronted them with eyes aglow with
admiration and sympathy.
Poor Ida had no time to mask her feelings or check her impulses,
and she took his extended hand as if she were sinking, while the
color and light of welcome flashed brightly into her face. Then
her beautiful confusion suggested that she felt her greeting had
been too cordial, and she sought with indifferent success to regain
"Please don't go just yet," said Van Berg eagerly. "The concert
is but half over, and there are some pretty things still to come."
Ida hesitated and looked doubtfully at her father.
"I shall be very glad to stay," he said with a smile, "if you
feel able to. My daughter is not very well, I fear," he added in
explanation to the artist.
"Perhaps it has been a little close here in the lobby," suggested
Van Berg, "and a walk in the open air will be agreeable. If you
will trust your daughter to me, sir, I promise to bring her back
before she is tired. I have much to tell her about her old friend,
Mr. Eltinge, whom I visited yesterday, and the pictures. Perhaps
you will go with us, for I know what I have to say will interest
"I think I'll light another cigar and wait for you here," Mr. Mayhew
answered quietly. "Old people like to sit still after their day's
work, and if Ida feels strong enough I would enjoy hearing the rest
of the concert."
"It would be hard to resist the temptation to hear anything about
dear old Mr. Eltinge," said Ida, taking the artist's arm, and
feeling as if she were being swept away on a shining tide.
"You WERE glad to see me, Miss Mayhew, and you can't deny it," Van
Berg began exultantly.
"You almost crushed my hand, and it aches still," was her demure
"Well, that was surely the wound of a friend."
"You are very good to speak to me at all, after all that's happened,"
she said in a low tone and with downcast face.
"What a strange coincidence! That is exactly what I was thinking
of you. I almost feared you would treat me as you did Sibley. How
much good it did me to see him slinking away like a whipped cur! I
never realized before how perfectly helpless even brazen villainy
is in the presence of womanly dignity."
"Why, were you present then?" she asked, with a quick blush.
"Not exactly present, but I saw your face and his, and a stronger
contrast I scarcely expect to see again."
"You artists look at everything and everybody as pictures."
"Now, Miss Mayhew, you are growing severe again. I don't carry
the shop quite as far as that, and I have not been looking at you
as a picture at all this evening. I shall make known the whole
enormity of my offence, and the if I must follow Sibley, I must,
but I shall carry with me a little shred of your respect for telling
the truth. I had a faint hope that you and your father would come
to-night, and I was looking for you, and when you came I watched
you. I could not resist the temptation of comparing the Miss Mayhew
I now so highly esteem and respect, with the lady I first met at
"Oh, Mr. Van Berg," said Ida, in a low, hurt tone, "I don't think
that was fair to me, or right."
"I am confessing and not excusing myself, Miss Mayhew. I once very
justly appeared to you like a prig, and now I fear I shall seem
a spy; but after our visit to that old garden together, and your
frankness to me, I feel under bonds to tell the whole truth. You
said we were fated to misunderstand each other. I think not, for
if you ever permit me to be your friend I shall be the frankest
one you ever had;" at these words he felt her hand trembling on
his arm, and she would not look up nor make any reply.
"Well," said he, desperately, "I expect Sibley's fate will soon
be mine. I suppose it was a mean thing to watch you, but it would
seem a meaner thing to me not to tell you. I was about to speak
to you, Miss Mayhew, when by another odd coincidence the orchestra
commenced playing music that I knew would remind you of me. I
was gaining the impression before you left the country that as you
came to think the past all over, you had found that there was more
against me than you could forgive, or else that I was so inseparably
associated with that which was painful that you would be glad to
forget the one with the other. I must admit that this impression
was greatly strengthened by the expression of your face, and I
almost decided to leave the place without speaking to you. But I
found I could not, and--well, you know I did not. You see I'm at
your mercy again."
Ida was greatly relieved, for she now learned that he had discovered
nothing in his favor, and that she was still mistress of the
"I do not think you are very penitent; I fear you would do the same
thing over again," she said.
"Indeed, Miss Mayhew, when I first met you here I thought I would
always do the right and proper thing, and I fear I thought some
things right because I did them. I've lived a hundred years since
that time, and am beginning to find myself out. Didn't you think me
the veriest prig that ever smiled in a superior way at the world?"
"I don't think I shall give you my opinion," she replied, averting
her face to hide a blush and a laugh.
"No need. I saw your opinion in your face when you looked down at
your programme half an hour since."
"You are mistaken; I was thinking of myself at that moment, for I
could not help remembering what a fool I must have appeared to you
on that occasion."
He looked at her in surprise. "Miss Burton was right," he ejaculated,
"I never shall understand you."
"Was she talking about me?" asked Ida, in a low tone.
"Yes, and she spoke of you in the most complimentary way, as you
did of her. Why the mischief you two ladies do not become the
warmest friends is beyond me. Sit down here a little while, Miss
Mayhew, for you are growing tired;" and she was very glad to comply.
As she made no effort to continue the conversation he resumed, "You
haven't told me what my punishment is to be."
"Are you so anxious to be punished?" she asked, looking up shyly
"Well, my conscience troubles me greatly, and I feel I ought to do
something for you in the way of expiation."
"And so I gather that anything done for me would be such severe
penance that your conscience would be appeased."
"Now, Miss Mayhew," he replied, looking earnestly into her face,
"tell me truly, do you gather any such impression from my words
But she kept her eyes resolutely on the ground, and said demurely,
"Such was the obvious meaning of your words."
"Do you know why I am in the city?" he asked after a moment.
"I have not presumed to think why."
"Perhaps I can make a little inroad in your indifference when I
tell you that I have spent several hours in my studio working on
your picture, and that I intend to work the remainder of the week
so as to have it ready for you Saturday evening."
She looked up now with a face radiant with surprise and pleasure,
"O Mr. Van Berg, I did not dream of your taking so much trouble
"That's a small payment on an old debt. What can I do for you
while I am in the city, to atone for my rudeness?"
She looked at him hesitatingly and wistfully a moment.
"I know you wish something, but fear to ask it," he said, gently,
"and I'm sorry to remember I've done so little to inspire your
"Mr. Van Berg," she said in a low tone, looking earnestly at him
while she spoke, so as to learn from his expression how he received
her request. "Your kindness does tempt me to ask a favor. Please
remember I'm acting from an impulse caused by this unexpected talk
we are having, and pardon me if I overstep the bounds of reserve
or suggest a task that you might very naturally shrink from as
"I pledge you my word at once to do what you wish."
"No, don't do that. Wait till you hear all. If when it comes easily
and naturally in your way you will do a little towards helping me
keep father the man he can be, my gratitude will be deeper than you
can understand. I am studying him very carefully and I find that
any encouraging recognition from those who have known his past, has
great weight with him. At the same time it must be very unobtrusive
and come as a matter of course as it were. You gave him your society
one Sunday morning last June in a way that did him a great deal
of good, and if I had only seconded your efforts then, everything
might have been different. I can never remember that day without
a blush of shame. I can't help the past, but my whole soul is now
bent on making amends to father. I fear, however, my deep solicitude
has led me to ask more than good taste can sanction."
"Miss Mayhew," said the artist, eagerly, "this is one of the best
moments of my life. You could not have made such a request unless
you trusted me, unless you had fully forgiven me all the wrong I
have done you. I doubted if I could ever win your friendship, but
I think I can claim a friend's place already in your esteem, since
you are willing to let me share in so sacred a duty. I renew my
pledge with double emphasis."
He never forgot the smile with which she rewarded him, as she said,
in a low tone, "That's better than I thought. You are very kind
to me. But I'm staying too long from father."
"We'll understand each other eventually," he said gently. "Now I
know why tears were in your eyes before the symphony was over."
"No you don't," she whispered to herself.
As they took their seats by Mr. Mayhew he remarked with a smile,
"Mr. Van Berg must have had a long budget of news frm your good
Ida looked at the artist in dismay, and was still more embarrassed
as she saw a sudden flash of mirth and exultation in his eyes. But
he turned to Mr. Mayhew and replied, promptly, "Two pictures are
growing out of my visits to Mr. Eltinge and his garden. The one
that is for Mr. Eltinge contains a portrait of Miss Mayhew as I
saw her reading to him. I wish you and your daughter would visit
my studio to-morrow and see the sketches, and if Miss Mayhew would
give me one or two sittings, I could make a much better picture for
Mr. Eltinge than now is possible, and I'm anxious to do the very
best I can for him."
"I would be very glad to come," said Mr. Mayhew, and his pleased
expression confirmed his words. "Will a visit before I go down
town be too early?"
"Not at all. I am always at work early."
"Well, Ida, does Mr. Eltinge miss your visits very much? It's
selfish in me to let you stay in the city."
"He does indeed, sir," said the artist answering for her. "He
talked to me continually about her yesterday, although I can't say
I tried to change the subject."
"Father, Mr. Van Berg shall not shield my short-comings," said Ida,
with crimson cheeks. "I forgot to ask about Mr. Eltinge. To tell
the truth, we were talking of old times. I met Mr. Van Berg here
last June and I made a very bad impression on him."
"And I at the same time made a worse impression on Miss Mayhew,"
added the artist.
"Well," said her father, with a doubtful smile and a puzzled glace
from one to the other, "one almost might be tempted to believe that
you had been revising your impressions."
"Mine has not been revised, but changed altogether," said Van Berg,
"Come, father, let us go at once lest Mr. Van Berg's impressions
change again," and her mirthful glance as she gave him her hand
in parting revealed a new element in her character. She was not
developing the cloying sweetness of honey.
Chapter XLVIII. Ida's Temptation.
If Van Berg had given thought to himself that evening as he did to
Ida Mayhew he might have discovered some rather odd phenomena in
his varying mental states. Earlier in the summer he had been a
very deliberate and conscientious wooer. He had leisurely taken
counsel of his reason, judgment, and good taste; he mentally
consulted his parents, and satisfied himself that Miss Burton would
have peculiar charms for them, and so it had come to seem almost
a duty as well as a privilege to seek that young lady's hand. The
sagacity and nice appreciation of character on which he had so
greatly prided himself led to the belief that fortune in giving him
a chance to win such a maiden had been very kind. That his pulse
was so even and his heart had so little to say in the matter was
only a proof that he did not possess an unbalanced head-long nature
like that of Stanton, who had soon become wholly mastered by his
passion. He had at one time reasoned it all out to his satisfaction,
and believed he was paying his suit to the woman he would make his
wife in an eminently proper way. but now that he was merely trying
to obtain a young girl's friendship, the cool and masterful poise
which he had then been able to maintain, was apparently deserting
him. He might have asked himself if he ever remembered being
such an enthusiastic friend before. He might have considered how
often he had kept awake and counted the hours till he should meet
a friend from whom he had just parted. That these obvious thoughts
and contrasts did not occur to him only proved that he was smitten
already by that blindness which a certain spiritual malady usually
occasions in its earlier stages.
As for poor Ida, she still felt that her little boat was being
carried forward by a shining tide--whither she dared not think.
She had come to the city to escape from the artist, and as a result
she might spend long hours alone with him in his studio and see
far more of him than if she had remained in the country. She had
not sought it--she had not even dared to hope or dream of such a
thing; but now that this exquisite cup of pleasure had been pressed
to her very lips by other hands she could not refuse it.
Her father had watched her keenly but furtively since she had been
his companion, and until the artist had accosted her the evening
before had not been able to understand the depression which she
could not disguise wholly from him; but the light and welcome that
flashed into her face when greeting Van Berg had suggested her
secret, and all that followed confirmed his surmise. The truth
was plainer still when she came down to their early breakfast the
next morning with color in her cheeks and a fitful light of excitement
in her eyes.
As he realized the truth he fairly trembled with apprehension and
longing. "Oh, if Ida could only marry that man I would be almost
beside myself with joy," he thought; "but I fear it is rash even
to hope for such a thing. Indeed, I myself am the obstacle that
would probably prevent it all. The Van Bergs are a proud race,
and this young man's father knows me too well. O God! I could be
annihilated if thereby my child could be happy."
"Ida," he said, hesitatingly, "perhaps I had better not go with you
this morning. I imagine Mr. Van Berg asked me out of politeness
rather than from any wish to see me and--and--I think I had better
She looked up at him swiftly, and the rich color mantled her face,
for she read his thoughts in part. But she only said quietly:
"Then I will not go."
"That would not be right or courteous, Ida," but I think you young
people will get on better without me."
"You are mistaken, Father; I never intend to get on without you,
and any friend of mine who does not welcome you becomes a stranger
from that hour. But I think you are doing Mr. Van Berg an injustice.
At any rate we will give him a chance to show a better spirit."
"Ida, my child, if you only knew how gladly I would sacrifice myself
to make you happy!"
She came to him and put her arms around his neck and looking up
into his face said, with the earnestness and solemnity of a vow,
"I will take no happiness which I cannot receive as your loving
daughter. As long as you are the man you have been since Sunday I
will stand proudly at your side. If you should ever be weak again
you will drag me down with you."
He held her from him and looked at her as a miser might gloat over
"Ida, my good angel," he murmured.
"Nonsense!" she exclaimed, trying to hide her feelings by a little
brusqueness, "I'm as human a girl as there is in this city, and will
try your patience a hundred times before the year is out. Come,
let us go and visit this proud artist. He had better beware, or
he may find an expression on my face that he won't like if I should
decide to give him a sitting."
But the artist did like the expression of Ida's face as he glanced
up from his work with great frequency and with an admiring glow in
his eyes that was anything but cool and business-like. Even her
jealous love had not detected a tone or act in his reception of
her father that was not all she could ask, and she had never seen
the poor man look so pleased and hopeful as when he left the studio
for his office. There had not been a particle of patronage in
Van Berg's manner, but only the cordial and respectful courtesy of
a younger gentleman towards an elderly one. Mr. Mayhew had been
made at home at once, and before he left, the artist had obtained
his promise to come again with his daughter on the following morning.
"His bearing towards father was the perfection of good breeding,"
thought Ida, and it would seem that some of the gratitude with
which her heart overflowed found its way into her tones and eyes.
"You look so pleasantly and kindly, that you must be thinking of
Mr. Eltinge," said Van Berg.
"You are not to paint my thoughts," said Ida, with a quick flush.
"I wish I could."
"I'm glad you can't."
"You do puzzle one, Miss Mayhew. On the day of our visit to the
old garden your thoughts seemed as clear to me as the water of the
little brook, and I supposed I saw all that was in your mind. But
before the day was over I felt that I did not understand you at
"Mr. Van Berg, I'm astonished you are an artist."
"Because of the character of my work?"
"No, indeed. But such a wonderful taste for solving problems
suggests a metaphysician. I think you would become discouraged
with such tasks. Just think how many ladies there are in the world,
and I'm sure any one of them is a more abstruse problem than I am."
The artist looked up at her in surprise and bit his lip with a faint
trace of embarrassment, but he said, after a moment, "But it does
not follow that they are interesting problems."
"You don't know," she replied.
"And never shall," he added. "I do know, however, that you are a
very interesting one."
"I didn't agree to come here to be solved as a problem," she said
demurely, but with a mirthful twinkle in her eyes; "I only promised
you a sitting for the sake of Mr. Eltinge."
"Two sittings, Miss Mayhew."
"Well, yes, if two are needful."
"By all the nine muses! you do not expect me to make a good picture
from only two sittings?"
"You know how slight is my acquaintance with any of those superior
divinities, and in this sacred haunt of theirs I feel that I should
express all my opinions with bated breath; but truly, Mr. Van Berg,
I thought you could make a picture from the sketch you made in the
"Yes, I could make A picture, but every sitting you will give enables
me to make a better picture, and you know how much we both owe to
"I'm learning every day how much, how very much, I owe to him,"
she said, earnestly.
"Then for his sake you will promise to come as often as I wish you
to," was his eager response, and it was so eager that she looked
up at him in surprise.
"Really, Mr. Van Berg, I am becoming bewildered as to what that
little sketch I asked you to make may involve."
"Will it be so wearisome for you to come here?" he asked, with a
look of disappointment that surprised her still more.
"I didn't say that," was her quick reply; "and I promise to come
to-morrow. Perhaps you will find that sufficient."
"I know it won't be sufficient."
"Cousin Ik has told me that you are very painstaking and conscientious
in your work."
"Thanks to Cousin Ik. When I get a chance to paint such a picture
as this I do, indeed, wish to make the most of it."
"But how long must Mr. Eltinge wait for it?"
"I think we can send it to him as a Christmas present."
"We? You, rather, will send it."
"No, WE; or rather, in giving me the sittings you give Mr. Eltinge
all that makes the picture valuable to him."
Ida's cheeks began to burn, for the artist's words suggested a
powerful temptation that; in accordance with her impetuous nature,
came in the form of an impulse rather than an insidious and lurking
thought. The impulse was to accept of the opportunities he pressed
upon her, and, if possible, win him away from Jennie Burton. At
first it seemed a mean and dishonorable thing to do, and her face
grew crimson with shame at the very thought. Van Berg looked
at her with surprise. Conscious himself that while he meant that
Mr. Eltinge should profit richly from her visits, it was not by
any means for the sake of the old gentleman only that he had been
requesting her to come so often, his own color began to rise.
"She begins to see that my motives are a little mixed, and that is
what is embarrassing her," he thought as he bent over his work to
hide his own confusion.
"Mr. Van Berg, I'm getting tired of sitting still," Ida exclaimed.
"It's contrary to my restless disposition. May I not make an exploring
tour around your studio? You have no idea what a constraint I've
been putting on my feminine curiosity."
"I give you a 'carte-blanche' to do as you please. Have you much
"I'm a daughter of Eve."
"Well, I'm coming to the conclusion that there is a good deal of
'old Adam' in me," and he felt that as she then appeared she could
tempt him to almost anything.
Now that her back was towards him she felt safer, and her mellow
laugh trilled out as she said, "We may have to dub this place a
confessional rather than a studio of you talk in that way."
"If I confessed all my sins against you, Miss Mayhew, it would,
indeed, be a confessional." He spoke so earnestly that she gave
him a quick glance of surprise.
"There is no need," she said, hesitatingly, "since I have given you
full absolution," and she suddenly became interested in something in
the farthest corner of the apartment. After a moment she added,
"If I am to come here I must say to you again, as I did on the
day I so disgusted you by my behavior in the stage--you must let
by-gones be by-gones."
It was now the artist's turn to laugh, and his merriment was
so hearty and prolonged that she turned a vexed and crimson face
towards him and said, "I think it's too bad in you to laugh at me
"Miss Mayhew, I assure you I'm not laughing at you at all. But your
words suggest a good omen. Didn't that stage teach you that fate
means us to be good friends in spite of all you can do? Before we
met in that car of fortune I had been trying for a week or more to
make your acquaintance, and made a martyr of myself in the effort.
I played the agreeable to nearly every lady in the hotel, and
perspired on picnics and boating parties that I did not enjoy. I
played croquet and other games till I was half bored to death, and
all in the effort to produce such a genial atmosphere of enjoyment
and good-feeling that you would thaw a little towards me; but you
wouldn't speak to me, nor even look at me. At last I gave up in
despair and went off among the hills with my sketch-book, and when
returning that blessed old stage overtook me. Wasn't I pleased
when I found you were a fellow-passenger! and let me now express
my thanks that you looked so resolutely away from me, for it gave
me a chance to contrast a profile in which I could detect no fault
with the broad, sultry visage of the stout woman opposite me. And
then, thank heaven, the horses ran away. Whoever heard of stage
horses running away before? It was a smile of fortune--a miracle.
Submit to destiny, Miss Mayhew, for it's decreed that we should be
good friends," and he laughed again in huge enjoyment of the whole
In spite of herself Ida found his humor contagious and irresistible,
and she laughed also till the tears came into her eyes.
"Mr. Van Berg," she exclaimed, "I ought to be indignant, or I ought
to be ashamed to look you in the face. I don't know what I ought
to do, only I'm sure it isn't the proper thing at all for me to be
laughing in this way. I think I'll go home at once, for I'm only
wasting your time.
His answer was not very relevant, for he said impetuously, "Oh,
Miss Ida, I would give five years of my life to be able to paint
your portrait as you now appear, for the picture would cure old
melancholy himself and fill a prison-cell with light."
"I won't come here any more if you laugh at me so," she said,
putting on her hat.
"See," he said, "I'm as grave as a judge. I will never laugh
AT you, but I hope to laugh WITH you many a time, for to tell you
the truth the experience has reminded me of the 'inextinguishable
laughter of the Gods.' Please don't go yet."
"If I must come so often my visits must be brief."
"Then you will come?"
"I haven't promised anything except for to-morrow. Good-morning."
"Let me walk home with you."
"No, positively. You have wasted too much time already."
"You will at least shake hands in token of peace and amity before
"Oh, certainly, if you think it worth the while when we are to meet
so soon again. Oh! you hurt me. You did that once before."
His face suddenly became grave and even tender in its expression,
as he said, in a low, deep voice, "More than once, Miss Ida. Don't
think I forget or forgive myself because you treat me so generously."
She would not look up and meet his eyes, but replied, in tones that
trembled with repressed feeling, "I could forgive anything after
your manner towards father this morning. Never think I can forget
such favors," and then she snatched away her hand and went swiftly
out. Her tears fell fast as she sought her home by quiet streets
with bowed head and vail drawn tightly down, and she murmured:
"I cannot give him up--I cannot, indeed, I cannot. If I lose him
it must be because there is no help for it."
Then conscience uttered its low, faint protest and her tears fell
When reaching her room she threw herself on the sofa and sobbed,
"Would it be so very, very wrong to win him if I could? she can't
love him as much as I do. Why, I was ready to die even to win his
respect, and now in these visits he gives me a chance to win his
love. Is he pledged to Miss Burton yet? If he is, I do not know
it. He does seem to care for me--there is often something in his
face and tone that whispers hope. If he loves her as I love him
he could not be here in New York all this week. But it's her love
that troubles me--I've seen it in her eyes when he was not observing,
and I fear she just worships him. Alas, he gave her reason. His
manner has been that of a lover, and no one--he least of all--would
think of flirting with Jennie Burton. But does he lover her so
deeply that I could not win him if I had a chance? Would it be very
wicked if I did? Must I give up my happiness for her happiness?
I came to New York to get away from danger and temptation and here
I am right in the midst of it. What shall I do! Oh, my Saviour,
I'm half afraid to speak to thee about this."
"If I could only see Mr. Eltinge," she murmured, after an
hour of distracted thought and indecision. "There is no time to
write--indeed, I could not write on such a subject, and--and--I'm
afraid he'd advise me against it. He can't understand a woman's
feelings in a case like this, at least he could not understand a
passionate, faulty girl like me. I've no patience--no fortitude.
I could die for my love--I think, I hope, I could for my faith,--but
I feel no power within me to endure patiently year after year. I
would be like the poor, weak women they shut up in the Inquisition
and who suffered on to the end only through remorseless compulsion,
because the walls were too thick for escape, and the tormentor's
hands and the rack were irresistible. My soul would succumb as well
as my body. This would seem wild, wicked talk to Mr. Eltinge; it
would seem weak and irrational to any man. But I'm only Ida Mayhew,
and such is my nature. I've been made all the more incapable of
patient self-sacrifice by self-indulgence from my childhood up.
Oh, will it be very, very wrong to win him if I can?" and the
passionate tears and sobs that followed these words would seem to
indicate that she understood her nature only too well.
At last she concluded, in weariness and exhaustion, "I'm too weak
and distracted to think any more. I hardly know whether it's right
or wrong. I hope it isn't very wrong. I won't decide now. Let
matters take their own course as they have done and I may see
clearer by and by."
But deep in her heart she felt that this was about the same as
yielding to the temptation.
She bathed her eyes, tried to think how she could spend the
intervening hours before they would meet again. Then with a sense
of dismay she began to consider, "If we are to meet so often what
are we to talk about? He once tried to converse with me and found
me so ignorant he couldn't. It seemed to me I didn't know anything
that evening, and he'll soon grow disgusted with me again as he sees
my poor little pack of knowledge is like a tramp's bundle that he
carries around with him. I must read--I must study every moment,
or I haven't the remotest chance of success. Success! Oh, merciful
heaven! it's the same as if I were setting about it all deliberately
and there's no use of deceiving myself. I hope it isn't very, very
She went to her father's library with flushed cheeks and hesitating
steps, as if it were the tree from which she might pluck the fruit
of forbidden knowledge. The long rows of ponderous and neglected
books appalled her; she took down two or three and they seemed
like unopened mines, deep and rocky. She felt instinctively that
there was not time for her to transmute their ores into graceful
and natural mental adornments.
"Methuselah himself couldn't read them all," she exclaimed. "By the
powers! if here isn't more books than I can carry, on one subject.
I suppose cartloads have been written about art. I've no doubt
he's read them all, but I never can; I fear my attempt to read up
is like trying to get strong by eating a whole ox at once. Oh,
why did I waste my school-days, and indeed all my life as I have!"
and she stamped her foot in her impatience and irritation.
"Well," she sighed at last, with a grim sort of humor; "I must do
the best I can. It's the same as if I were on a desert island. I
must tie together some sort of a raft in order to cross the gulf
that separates us, for I never can stand it to stay here alone.
Since I have not time to spare I may as well commence with that
encyclopaedia, and learn a little about as many things as possible;
then if he introduces a subject he shall at least see that I know
what he is talking about." And during the afternoon the poor
girl plodded through sever articles, often recalling her wandering
thoughts by impatient little gestures, and by the time her father
returned she was conscious of knowing a very little indeed about a
number of things. "No matter," she thought, compressing her lips,
"I won't give up till I must. It's my one chance for happiness
in this world, and I'll cling to it while there is a shred of hope
It was with an eager and resolute face that she confronted her
father that evening, as they sat down to dinner. He thought she
would descant on her experiences of the morning, and he was anxious
for a chance to say how truly he appreciated Mr. Van Berg's cordial
manner, but she surprised him by asking abruptly:
"Father, when do we elect another president?"
He told her, and then followed a rapid fire of questions about the
general and state government, and the names and characters of the
men who held the chief offices. At last Mr. Mayhew laid down his
knife and fork in his astonishment, and asked sententiously:
"How long is it since you decided to go into politics?"
Ida's laugh was very reassuring, and she said, "Poor father! I
don't wonder you think I've lost my wits, now that I'm trying to
use the few I have. Don't you see? I don't know anything that's
worth knowing. I wasted my time at school, for my head was full
of beaux, dress, and nonsense. Besides, I don't think my teachers
took much pains to make me understand anything. At any rate, my
dancing-master, and perhaps my music-teacher--a little bit--are
the only ones that have any reason to be proud of the result. Now
I want you to brush up your ideas about everything, so you can
answer the endless questions I am going to ask you."
"Why bless you, child, you take away my breath. Rome wasn't built
in a day."
"The way they built Rome will never answer for me. I must grow like
one of our Western cities that has a mayor and opera-house almost
before the Indians and wolves are driven out of town. Speaking of
Rome reminds me how little I know of that city, and it's a burning
shame, too, for I spent a month there."
"Well," said Mr. Mayhew, with kindling interest, "suppose we take
up a course of reading about Rome for the winter."
"For the winter! That won't do at all. Can't you tell me something
of interest about Rome this evening?"
"I've already mentioned the interesting fact--that it wasn't built
in a day. I think that's the most important thing that you need
to know about Rome and everything else this evening. Why, Ida,
you can't become wise as an ostrich makes its supper--by swallowing
everything that comes in its way. You are not a bit like an
"An ostrich is a silly bird that puts its head under the sand and
thins its whole great body hidden because it can't see itself,
isn't it, father?"
"I've heard that story told of it," replied Mr. Mayhew, laughing.
"Anything but an ostrich, then. Come, I'll read the evening paper
to you on condition you tell me the leading questions of the day.
What is just now the leading question of the day?"
"Well," said Mr. Mayhew, demurely, but with a sparkle of humor
in his eye, "one of the leading questions of this day with me has
been whether Mr. Van Berg would not enjoy dining with us to-morrow
evening now that he is here alone in the city?"
Ida instantly held the newspaper before her crimson face and said:
"Father, you ought to be ashamed thus to divert my mind from the
pursuit of useful knowledge."
Her father came to her side and said very kindly: "Ida, darling,
you are a little bit like an ostrich now."
She sprang up, and, hiding her face on his shoulder, trembled like
a leaf. "Oh, father," she whispered, "I would not have him know
for the world. Is it so very plain?"
"Not to him, my child, but the eyes of a love like mine are very
keen. So you needn't be on your guard before your old father as
you must be before him and the world. You shall have only rest and
sympathy at home as far as I can give them. Indeed, if you will
let me, I'll become a very unobtrusive, but perhaps, useful ally.
At any rate, I'll try not to make any stupid, ignorant blunders.
I have like Mr. Van Berg from the first hour of our meeting, and
I would thank God from the depths of my heart if this could be."
"Dear, good father, how little I understood you. I've been living
in poverty over a gold mine. But father, I'm so ignorant and Mr.
Van Berg knows everything."
"Not quite, you'll find. He's only a man, Ida. But you can never
win him through politics or by discussing with him the questions
of the day. These are not in your line nor his."
"What can I do, father. Indeed, it does not seem to me maidenly
to do anything."
"It would not be maidenly, Ida, to step one hair's breadth beyond
the line of scrupulous, womanly delicacy, and by any such course
you would only defeat and thwart yourself. A woman must always
be sought; and as a rule, she loses as she seeks. But I strust to
your instincts to guide you here. You have only to be simple and
true, as you have been since the happy miracle that transformed
you. Unless a man is infatuated as I--but no matter. A man that
keeps his sense welcomes truthfulness--a high delicate sense of
honor--above all things in a woman, for it gives him a sense of
security and rest. By truthfulness I do not mean the indiscreet
blurting out of things that good taste would leave unsaid, but
clear-eyed integrity that hides no guile. Then, again, unless
a man is blinded by passion or some kind of infatuation he knows
that the chief need of his life is a home lighted and warmed by an
unwavering love. With these his happiness and success are secured,
as far as they can be in this world, unless he is a brute and a
fool, and has no right to exist at all. But I am growing preachy.
Let me suggest some things that I have observed in this artist. He
is a high-toned pagan and worships beauty; but with this outward
perfection he also demands spiritual loveliness, for with him mind
and honor are in the ascendant. He admired you immensely from the
first, and since your character has been growing in harmony with
your face he has sought your society. So, be simple, true, and
modest, and you will win him if the thing is possible. You will
never win him by being anything else, and you might lose your own
respect and his too."
"I'll suffer anything rather than that, father. I think you had
better not invite him to-morrow evening."
"I'll be governed by what I see to-morrow," he replied, musingly.
"Both my business and my habit of mind have taught me to observe
and study men's motives and impulses very closely. You could order
a suitable dinner after leaving the studio, could you not?"
"Well, then, my Princess Ida, I'll be your grand vizier, and I'll
treat with this foreign power with such a fine diplomacy that he
shall appreciate all the privileges he obtains. But we will keep
our self-respect hereafter, Ida, and then we can look the world in
the face and ask no odds of it."
"Yes, father, let us keep that at all events. And yet I'm only a
"You are the woman that has made me happy, and I think there is
another man who will want to be made happy also. And now we will
defer all other questions of the day, for I must go out for a time.
Do not think I undervalue your craving for information, and you
shall have it as fast as you can take care of it. You have grown
pale and thin this summer, but I do not expect you to become plump
and rosy again in a day."
"Oh, I'm rosy too often as it is. Why is it that girls must blush
so ridiculously when they don't want to? That's the question of
the day for me. I could flirt desperately in old times, and yet
look as demure and cool as if I were an innocent. But now, oh!
I'm fairly enraged with myself at times."
"They say blushes are love's trail," said Mr. Mayhew with a laugh,
"and since he is around I suppose he must leave his tracks. If
you wish for a more scientific reason let me add that physiology
teaches us that the blood comes from the heart. I can assure you,
however, that there are but few gentlemen who admire ladies that
cannot blush, and Mr. Van Berg is not one of them."
Ida spent the evening at her piano instead of over the encyclopaedia,
but she sighed again and again.
"Simple and true! I fear Jennie Burton and Mr. Eltinge would say
I was neither if they knew what was in my heart. But I can't help
it--I can't give him up after what has happened since I came to
the city, unless I must."
But the music she selected was simple and true. Tossing her brilliant
and florid pieces impatiently aside, she played or sang only that
which was plaintive, low, and in harmony with her thoughts. It
also seemed to have a peculiar attractiveness to a tall gentleman
who lingered some moments beneath the windows, and even took one
or two steps up towards the door, and then turned and strode away
as if conscious that he must either enter or depart at once.
Chapter XLIX. The Blind God.
The Miss Mayhew that crossed the artist's threshold the following
morning might have been taken as a model of graceful self-possession,
but she disguised a maiden with as fluttering a heart and trembling
a soul as ever faced one of the supreme moments of destiny. Her
father, however, proved a faithful and intelligent ally, and his
manner towards Van Berg was a fine blending of courtesy and dignity,
suggesting a man as capable of conferring as of receiving favors.
His host would indeed have been blind and stupid if he had tried
to patronize Mr. Mayhew that morning.
Although unconscious of the fact, Van Berg was for a time subjected
to the closest scrutiny. Love had deep if not dark designs against
him, and the glances he bent on Ida might suggest that he was only
too ready to become a victim. He had welcomed to his study two
conspirators who were committed to their plot by the strongest of
motives, and yet they were such novel conspirators that a word, a
glance, an expression even of "ennui" or indifference would have
so touched their pride that they would have abandoned their wiles
at every cost to themselves. Were they trying to ensnare him?
Never were such films and gossamer threads used in like entanglement
before. He could have brushed them all away by one cold sweep
of his eyes, and the maiden who had not scrupled at death to gain
merely his respect, would have left the studio with a colder glance
than his, nor would her womanly strength have failed her until she
reached a refuge which his eye could not penetrate; but then--God
pity her. The tragedies over which the angels weep are the bloodless
wounds of the spirit.
But it would seem that the atmosphere of Van Berg's studio that
summer morning was not at all conducive to tragedy of any kind, nor
were there in his face or manner any indications of comedy, which
to poor Ida would have been far worse; for an air of careless
"bonhomie" on his part when she was so desperately in earnest would
have made his smiles and jests like heartless mockery.
And yet, in spite of his manner the previous day, the poor girl had
come to the studio fearing far more than she hoped, and burdened
also with a troubled conscience. She was almost sure she was not
doing right, and yet the temptation was too strong to be resisted.
But when he took her hand in greeting that morning, and said with
a smile that seemed to flash out from the depths of his soul,
"I won't hurt you any more if I can help it," all scruples, all
hesitancy vanished for a time, like frostwork in the sun. His
magnetism was irresistible, and she felt that it would require
all her tact and resolution to keep him by some careless, random
word or act, from brushing aside the veil behind which shrank her
trembling, and as yet, unsought love.
But Van Berg was even a rarer study than the maiden, and his manner
towards both Ida and her father might well lead one to think that
he was inclined to become the chief conspirator in the design
against himself. He had scarcely been conscious of time or place
since parting the previous day with the friend he was so bent
on securing, and when at last he slept in the small hours of the
morning he dreamt that he had been caught by a mighty tidal wave
that was bearing him swiftly towards heaven on its silver crest.
When he awoke, the wave, so far from being a bubble, seemed a
grand spiritual reality, and he felt as if he had already reached
a seventh heaven of vague, undefined exhilaration. Never before
had life appeared so rich a possession and so full of glorious
possibilities. Never in the past had he felt his profession to
be so noble and worthy of his devotion, and never had the fame he
hoped to grasp by means of it seemed so near. Beauty became to him
so infinitely beautiful and divine that he felt he could worship
it were it only embodied, and then with a strange and exquisite
thrill of exultation he exclaimed: "Right or wrong, to my eye it
is embodied in Ida Mayhew, and she will fill my studio with light
again to-day and many days to come. If ever an artist was fortunate
in securing as a friend, as an inspiration, a perfect and budding
flower of personal and spiritual loveliness, I am that happy man."
The Van Berg of other days would have called the Van Berg that
waited impatiently for his guests that morning a rhapsodical fool,
and the greater part of the world would offer no dissent. The
world is very prone to call every man who is possessed by a little
earnestness or enthusiasm a fool, but it is usually an open question
which is the more foolish--the world or the man; and perhaps we shall
all learn some day that there was more of sanity in our rhapsodies
than in the shrewd calculations that verged towards meanness. Be
this as it may in the abstract, Van Berg regarded himself as the most
rational man in the city that morning. He did not try to account
for his mental state by musty and proverbial wisdom or long-established
principles of psychology. The glad, strong consciousness of his
own soul satisfied him and made everything appear natural. Since
he HAD this strong and growing friendship for this maiden, who was
evidently pleased to come again to his studio, though so coy and
shy in admitting it, why should he not have it? There was nothing
in his creed against such a friendship, and everything for it.
Men of talent, not to mention genius, had ever sought inspiration
from those most capable of imparting it, and this girl's beauty
and character were kindling his mind to that extent that he began
to hope he could now do some of the finest work of his life. The
fact that he felt towards her the strongest friendly regard was
in itself enough, and Van Berg was too good a modern thinker to
dispute with facts, especially agreeable ones.
The practical outcome of the friendship which he lost no chance of
manifesting that morning, was that Mr. Mayhew, in an easy, informal
manner, extended his invitation, and the artist accepted in a way
that proved he was constrained by something more than courtesy or
a sense of duty, and Conspirator Number Two walked down Broadway
muttering (as do all conspirators): "Those young people are liable
to stumble into paradise at any moment."
"How did you manage to get through a hot August day in town after
you were released from durance here?" asked Van Berg.
"I do not know that it required any special management," replied
Ida demurely. "I suppose YOU took a nap after your severe labors
of the morning."
"Now you are satirical. My labor was all in the afternoon, for I
worked from the time you left me till dusk."
"Didn't you stop for lunch or dinner?" exclaimed Ida, with surprise.
"Not a moment."
"Why, Mr. Van Berg, what was the matter with you? It will never
do for me to come here and waste your forenoons if you try to make
up so unmercifully after I'm gone."
"You were indeed altogether to blame. Some things, like fine music
or a great painting or--it happened to be yourself yesterday--often
cause what I call my working moods, when I feel able to do the best
things of which I'm capable. Not that they are wonderful or ever
will be--they are simply my best efforts--and I assure you I'm not
foolish enough to waste such moments in the prosaic task of eating."
"I'm only a matter-of-fact person. Plain food at regular intervals
is very essential to me."
He looked up at her quickly and said: "Now you are mentally laughing
at me again. I assure you I ate like an ostrich after my work was
over. I even upset the dignity of an urbane Delmonico waiter."
Ida bit her lip as she recalled certain resemblances on her own
part to that suggestive bird, but she said sympathetically: "It
must be rather stupid to dine alone at a restaurant."
"I found it insufferably stupid, and I'm more grateful to your
father for his invitation than you would believe."
Ida could scarcely disguise her pleasure, and with mirthful eyes
"Really, Mr. Van Berg, you place me in quite a dilemma. I find
that in one mood you do not wish to eat at all, and again you say
you have the rather peculiar appetite of the bird you named. Now
I'm housekeeper at present, and scarcely know how to provide. What
kind of viands are best adapted to artists and poets, and---"
"And idiots in general, you might conclude," said Van Berg, laughing.
"After sitting so near me at the table all summer you must have
noticed that nothing but ambrosia and nectar will serve my purpose."
Ida's laughing eyes suddenly became deep and dreamy as she said:
"That time seems ages ago. I cannot realize that we are the same
people that met so often in Mr. Burleigh's dining-room, and in
circumstances that to me were often so very dismal."
"Please remember that I am not the same person. I will esteem it
a great favor if you will leave the man you saw at that time in
the limbo of the past--the farther off the better."
"You were rather distant then," Ida remarked with a piquant smile.
"But am I now? Answer me that," he said so eagerly that she was
again mentally enraged at her tell-tale color, and she said hastily:
"But where am I to find the ambrosia and nectar that you will expect
"Any market can furnish the crude materials. It is the touch of
the hostess that transmutes them."
"Alas," said Ida, "I never learned how to cook. If I should prepare
your dinner, you would have an awful mood to-morrow, and probably
send for the doctor."
"I would need a nurse more than a doctor."
"I know of an ancient woman--a perfect Mrs. Harris," said Ida,
"Wouldn't you come and see me if I were very ill?"
"I might call at the door and ask how you were," she replied,
"Now, Miss Ida, the undertaker would do as much as that."
"Our motives might differ just a little," she said, dropping her
"Well," said the artist, laughing, "if you will prepare the dinner,
I'll risk undertaker, ancient woman, and all, rather than spend
such another long stupid evening as I did last night. I expected
to meet you at the concert garden again."
"That's strange," she said.
"I should say rather that I hoped to meet you and your father there.
Would you have gone if I had asked you?"
"I'll set that down as one of the lost opportunities of life."
"Why didn't you listen to the music?"
"Well, I didn't. I thought I'd inflict my stupidity on you for
awhile, and came as far as your doorsteps before I remembered that
I had not been invited; so you see what a narrow escape you had."
In spite of herself Ida could not help appearing disappointed as
she said, a little reproachfully, "Would a friend have waited for
a formal invitation?"
"A friend did," replied Van Berg regretfully; "but he won't again."
"I'm not so sure about that; my music must have frightened you
"I listened until I feared the police might think I had designs
against the house. I didn't know you were a musician. Miss Mayhew,
I'm always finding out something new about you, and I'm going to
ask you this evening to sing again for me a ballad the melody of
which reminded me of a running brook. It took hold on my fancy
and has been running in my head ever since."
"Oh, you won't like that; it's a silly, sentimental little thing.
I don't wonder you paused and retreated."
"Spare me, Miss Ida; I already feel that it was a faint-hearted
retreat, in which I suffered serious loss. I have accounted for
myself since we parted; how did YOU spend the time? Of course you
yawned over your morning's fatigue, and took a long nap."
"Indeed I did not sleep a wink. Why should I be any more indolent
than yourself? I read most of the afternoon, and drummed on the
piano in the evening."
"I know that I like your drumming, but am not yet sure about your
author; but he must be an exceedingly interesting one, to hold your
attention a long hot afternoon."
Ida colored in sudden embarrassment, but said, after a moment: "I
shall not gratify your curiosity any further, for you would laugh
at me again if I told you."
"Now, indeed, you have piqued my curiosity."
"Since you, a man, admit having so much of this feminine weakness,
I who am only a woman may be pardoned for showing just a little.
What work was it that so absorbed you yesterday afternoon that you
ceased to be human in your needs?"
"Miss Mayhew, you have been laughing at me in your sleeve ever since
you came this morning. I shall take my revenge on you at once by
heaping coals of fire on your head," and he turned towards her a
large picture, all of which was yet in outline, save Mr. Eltinge's
bust and face.
Ida sprang down on her knees before it, exclaiming: "O! my dear,
kind old friend! He's just speaking to me. Mr. Van Berg, I'll
now maintain you are a genius against all the world. You have
put kindness, love, fatherhood into his face. You have made it a
strong and noble, and yet tender and gentle as the man himself. I
never knew it was possible for a portrait to express so much," and
tears of strong, grateful feeling filled her eyes.
Was it success in his art or praise from her lips that gave her
listener such an exquisite thrill of pleasure? He did not stop
to consider, for he was not in an analytical mood at that time.
He was on the crest of the spiritual wave that was sweeping him
heavenward, or towards some beatific state of which he had not
dreamt before. His face glowed with pleasure as he said:
"Since it pleases you, it's no more than justice that you should
know that your visit was the cause of my success. Either your
laugh or your kind parting words brushed the cobwebs from my mind,
and I was able to do better work in a few hours than I might have
accomplished in weeks."
She tried to look at the picture more closely, but fast-coming
tears blinded her. Then she rose, and averting her face hastily,
wiped her eyes, as she said in a low tone: "I can't understand it
at all, and the memory of Mr. Eltinge's kindness always overcomes
me. Please pardon my weakness. There, I won't waste any more of
your time," and she returned to her chair. But her face still wore
the uncertainty of an April day.
"Your affection for Mr. Eltinge," he said gently, "is as beautiful
as it is natural. No manifestation of it needs any apology, and
least of all to me, for I owe to him far more than life. But I am
paining you by recalling the past," he said regretfully, as Ida's
tears began to gather again. "Let me try to make amends by returning
at once to the present and to my work. Before I go on any farther
with your portrait I want you to put this rose-bud in your hair,"
and from a hidden nook he brought a little vase containing only
one exquisite bud. Ida had barely time to see that it was in color
and size precisely like the emblem of herself that he had thrown