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Barriers Burned Away by E. P. Roe

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[Illustration: "HE MAY GET LOST IN THE STORM."]

The Works of E. P. Roe





Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1872, by

In the Office of the Librarian of Congress, at Washington





This Book



I shall say but few words in regard to this first child of my

About one year ago our hearts were in deepest sympathy with our
fellow-citizens of Chicago, and it occurred to me that their losses,
sufferings, and fortitude might teach lessons after the echoes of the
appalling event had died away in the press; and that even the lurid
and destructive flames might reveal with greater vividness the need
and value of Christian faith.

I spent some days among the smouldering ruins, and then began the
following simple story, which has grown into larger proportions than
I at first intended. But comparatively a small part of the narrative
is occupied with the fire, for its scenes are beyond description, and
too strange and terrible to be dwelt upon. Therefore the thread of my
story is carried rapidly through that period of unparalleled excitement
and disaster.

Nearly all the scenes introduced are historical, and are employed to
give their terrible emphasis to that which is equally true in the
serenest and securest times.

E. P. R.



















































From its long sweep over the unbroken prairie a heavier blast than
usual shook the slight frame house. The windows rattled in the
casements, as if shivering in their dumb way in the December storm.
So open and defective was the dwelling in its construction, that eddying
currents of cold air found admittance at various points--in some
instances carrying with them particles of the fine, sharp, hail-like
snow that the gale was driving before it in blinding fury.

Seated at one of the windows, peering out into the gathering gloom of
the swiftly coming night, was a pale, faded woman with lustrous dark
eyes. An anxious light shone from them, as she tried in vain to catch
a glimpse of the darkening road that ran at a distance of about fifty
yards from the house. As the furious blast shook the frail tenement,
and circled round her in chilly currents from many a crack and crevice,
she gave a short, hacking cough, and drew a thin shawl closer about
her slight frame.

The unwonted violence of the wind had its effect upon another occupant
of the room. From a bed in the corner near the stove came a feeble,
hollow voice--"Wife!"

In a moment the woman was bending over the bed, and in a voice full
of patient tenderness answered, "Well, dear?"

"Has he come?"

"Not yet; but he MUST be here soon."

The word MUST was emphasized in such a way as to mean doubt rather
than certainty, as if trying to assure her own mind of a matter about
which painful misgivings could not be banished. The quick ear of the
sick man caught the tone, and in a querulous voice he said, "Oh! if
he should not get here in time, it would be the last bitter drop in
my cup, now full and running over."

"Dear husband, if human strength and love can accomplish it, he will
be here soon. But the storm is indeed frightful, and were the case
less urgent, I could almost wish he would not try to make his way
through it. But then we know what Dennis is; he never stops to consider
difficulties, but pushes right on; and if--if he doesn't--if it is
possible, he will be here before very long."

In spite of herself, the mother's heart showed its anxiety, and, too
late for remedy, she saw the effect upon her husband. He raised himself
in bed with sudden and unwonted strength. His eyes grew wild and almost
fierce, and in a sharp, hurried voice, he said: "You don't think there
is danger? There is no fear of his getting lost? If I thought that I
would curse God and die."

"Oh, Dennis, my husband, God forbid that you should speak thus! How can
you feel so toward our Best Friend?"

"What kind of a friend has He been to me, pray? Has not my life been
one long series of misfortunes? Have I not been disappointed in all
my hopes? I once believed in God and tried to serve Him. But if, as
I have been taught, all this evil and misfortune was ordered and made
my inevitable lot by Him, He has not been my friend, but my enemy.
He's been against me, not for me."

In the winter twilight the man's emaciated, unshorn face had the
ghostly, ashen hue of death. From cavernous sockets his eyes gleamed
with a terribly vindictive light, akin to insanity, and, in a harsh,
high voice, as unnatural as his appearance and words, he continued:
"Remember what I have gone through! what I have suffered! how often
the cup of success that I was raising to my lips has been dashed to the

"But, Dennis, think a moment."

"Ah! haven't I thought till my heart is gall and my brain bursting?
Haven't I, while lying here, hopelessly dying, gone over my life again
and again? Haven't I lived over every disappointment, and taken every
step downward a thousand times? Remember the pleasant, plentiful home
I took you from, under the great elms in Connecticut. Your father did
not approve of your marrying a poor school-teacher. But you know that
then I had every prospect of getting the village academy, but with my
luck another got ahead of me. Then I determined to study law. What
hopes I had! I already grasped political honors that seemed within my
reach, for you know I was a ready speaker. If my friends could only
have seen that I was peculiarly fitted for public life and advanced
me sufficient means, I would have returned it tenfold. But no; I was
forced into other things for which I had no great aptness or knowledge,
and years of struggling poverty and repeated disappointment followed.
At last your father died and gave us enough to buy a cheap farm out
here. But why go over our experience in the West? My plan of making
sugar from the sorghum, which promised so brilliantly, has ended in
the most wretched failure of all. And now money has gone, health has
gone, and soon my miserable life will be over. Our boy must come back
from college, and you and the two little ones--what will you do?" and
the man covered his head with the blanket and wept aloud. His poor
wife, borne down by the torrent of his sorrow, was on her knees at his
bedside, with her face buried in her hands, weeping also.

But suddenly he started up. His sobs ceased. His tears ceased to flow,
while his eyes grew hard and fierce, and his hands clenched.

"But he was coming," he said. "He may get lost in the storm this bitter
winter night."

He grasped his wife roughly by the arm. She was astonished at his
sudden strength, and raised a tearful, startled face to his. It was
well she could not see its terrible expression in the dusk; but she
shuddered as he hissed in her ear, "If this should happen--if my
miserable death is the cause of his death--if my accursed destiny
involves him, your staff and hope, in so horrible a fate, what have
I to do but curse God and die?"

It seemed to the poor woman that her heart would burst with the agony
of that moment. As the storm had increased, a terrible dread had chilled
her very soul. Every louder blast than usual had caused her an internal
shiver, while for her husband's sake she had controlled herself
outwardly. Like a shipwrecked man who is clinging to a rock, that he
fears the tide will submerge, she had watched the snow rise from one
rail to another along the fence. When darkness set in it was half-way
up to the top rail, and she knew it was _drifting_. The thought of her
ruddy, active, joyous-hearted boy, whose affection and hopefulness had
been the broad track of sunlight on her hard path--the thought of his
lying white and still beneath one of these great banks, just where she
could never know till spring rains and suns revealed to an indifferent
stranger his sleeping-place--now nearly overwhelmed her also, and even
her faith wavered on the brink of the dark gulf of despair into which
her husband was sinking. Left to herself, she might have sunk for a
time, though her sincere belief in God's goodness and love would have
triumphed. But her womanly, unselfish nature, her long habit of
sustaining and comforting her husband, came to her aid. Breathing a
quick prayer to Heaven, which was scarcely more than a gasp and a glance
upward, she asked, hardly knowing what she said, "And what if he is
_not_ lost? What if God restores him safe and well?"

She shuddered after she had thus spoken, for she saw that her husband's
belief in the hostility of God had reached almost the point of insanity.
If this test failed, would he not, in spite of all she could say or do,
curse God and die, as he had said? But she had been guided in her
words more than she knew. He that careth for the fall of the sparrow
had not forgotten His children in their sore extremity.

The man in answer to her question relaxed his hold upon her arm, and
with a long breath fell back on his pillow.

"Ah!" said he, "if I could only see him again safe and well, if I could
only leave you with him as your protector and support, I believe I
could forgive all the past and be reconciled even to my hard lot."

"God gives you opportunity so to do, my father, for here I am safe and

The soft snow had muffled the son's footsteps, and his approach had
been unnoted. Entering at the back door, and passing through the
kitchen, he had surprised his parents in the painful scene above
described. As he saw his mother's form in dim outline kneeling at the
bed, her face buried in its covering--as he heard his father's
significant words--the quick-witted youth realized the situation. While
he loved his father dearly, and honored him for his many good traits,
he was also conscious of his faults, especially this most serious one
now threatening such fatal consequences--that of charging to God the
failures and disappointments resulting from defects in his own
character. It seemed as if a merciful Providence was about to use this
awful dread of accident to the son--a calamity that rose far above and
overshadowed all the past--as the means of winning back the alienated
heart of this weak and erring man.

The effect of the sudden presence in the sick-room was most marked.
The poor mother, who had shown such self-control and patient endurance
before, now gave way utterly, and clung for a few moments to her son's
neck with hysterical energy, then in strong reaction fainted away. The
strain upon her worn and overtaxed system had been too severe.

At first the sick man could only look through the dusk at the outline
of his son with a bewildered stare, his mind too weak to comprehend
the truth. But soon he too was sobbing for joy.

But when his wife suddenly became a lifeless weight in his son's arms,
who in wild alarm cried, "Mother, what is the matter? Speak to me! Oh!
I have killed her by my rash entrance," the sick man's manner changed,
and his eyes again became dry and hard, and even in the darkness had
a strange glitter.

"Is your mother dead?" he asked, in a low, hoarse voice.

"Oh, mother, speak to me!" cried the son, forgetting for a time his

For a moment there was death-like silence. Then the young man groped
for an old settle in the corner of the room, laid his mother tenderly
upon it, and sprang for a light, but as he passed his father's bed the
same strong grasp fell upon his arm that his mother had shuddered under
a little before, and the question was this time hissed in his ear, "Is
your mother dead?" For a moment he had no power to answer, and his
father continued: "What a fool I was to expect God to show mercy or
kindness to me or mine while I was above ground! You are only brought
home to suffer more than death in seeing your mother die. May that God
that has followed me all my life, not with blessings--"

"Hush, father!" cried his son, in loud, commanding tones. "Hush, I
entreat," and in his desperation he actually put his hand over his
father's mouth.

The poor woman must have been dead, indeed, had she long remained deaf
to the voice of her beloved son, and his loud tones partially revived
her. In a faint voice she called, "Dennis!"

With hands suddenly relaxed, and hearts almost stilled in their beating,
father and son listened for a second. Again, a little louder, through
that dark and silent room, was heard the faint call, "Dennis!"

Springing to her side, her son exclaimed, "Oh, mother, I am here; don't
leave us; in mercy don't leave us."

"It was I she called," said his father.

With unnatural strength he had tottered across the room, and taking
his wife's hand, cried, "Oh, Ethel, don't die! don't fill my already
full cup to overflowing with bitterness!"

Their familiar voices were the best of remedies. After a moment she
sat up, and passing her hand across her brow as if to clear away
confusion of mind, said: "Don't be alarmed; it's only a faint turn.
I don't wonder though that you are frightened, for I never was so

Poor woman, amid all the emergencies of her hard lot, she had never
in the past given way so far.

Then, becoming aware of her husband's position, she exclaimed: "Why,
Dennis, my husband, out of your bed? You will catch your death."
"Ah, wife, that matters little if you and Dennis live."

"But it matters much to me," cried she, springing up.

By this time her son had struck a light, and each was able to look on
the other's face. The unnatural strength, the result of excitement, was
fast leaving the sick man. The light revealed him helplessly leaning
on the couch where his wife had lain. His face was ashen in color, and
he was gasping for breath. Tenderly they carried him back to his bed,
and he was too weak now to do more than quietly lie upon it and gaze
at them. After replenishing the fire, and looking at the little ones
that were sleeping in the outer room, they shaded the lamp, and sat
down at his bedside, while the mother asked her son many eager questions
as to his escape. He told them how he had struggled through the snow
till almost exhausted, when he had been overtaken by a farmer with a
strong team, and thus enabled to make the journey in safety.

As the sick man looked and listened, his face grew softer and more
quiet in its expression.

Then the young man, remembering, said: "I bought the medicines you
wrote for, mother, at Bankville. This, the druggist said, would produce
quiet and sleep, and surely father needs it after the excitement of
the evening."

The opiate was given, and soon the regular, quiet breathing of the
patient showed that it had taken effect. A plain but plentiful supper,
which the anxious mother had prepared hours before, was placed upon the
kitchen table, and the young man did ample justice to it; for, the
moment the cravings of his heart were satisfied in meeting his kindred
after absence, he became conscious of the keenest hunger. Toiling
through the snow for hours in the face of the December storm had taxed
his system to the utmost, and now he felt the need of food and rest.
After supper he honestly meant to watch at his father's bedside, while
his mother slept; but he had scarcely seated himself on the old settle,
when sleep, like an armed man, overpowered him, and in spite of all
his efforts he was soon bound in the dreamless slumber of healthful
youth. But with eyes so wide and lustrous that it seemed as if sleep
could never close them again, the wife and mother, pale and silent,
watched between her loved ones. The troubled expression was gone, for
the ranks of her little band had closed up, and all were about her in
one more brief rest in the forward and uncertain march of life. She
seemed looking intently at something far off--something better discerned
by the spiritual than by the natural eye. Disappointments had been
bitter, poverty hard and grinding, but she had learned to escape into
a large world that was fast becoming real to her strong imagination.
While her husband was indulging in chimerical visions of boundless
prosperity here on earth which he would bring to pass by some lucky
stroke of fortune or invention, she also was picturing to herself
grander things which God would realize to her _beyond_ time and
earth. When alone, in moments of rest from incessant toil, she would
take down the great family Bible, and with her finger on some
description of the "new heavens and new earth," as the connecting link
between the promise and her strong realization of it, she would look
away with that intent gaze. The new world, purged from sin and sorrow,
would rise before her with more than Edenlike loveliness. Her spirit
would revel in its shadowy walks and sunny glades, and as the crowning
joy she would meet her Lord and Saviour in some secluded place, and
sit listening at His feet like Mary of old. Thus, in the strong illusion
of her imagination, Christ's words seemed addressed directly to her,
while she looked up into His face with rapt attention. Instead of
_reading_ her Lord's familiar sayings, she seemed to _listen_ to them as
did the early disciples. After a little time she would close the Bible
and go back to her hard practical life, awed yet strengthened, and with
a hopeful expression, like that which must have rested on the disciples'
faces on coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration.



Hour after hour passed. The storm was dying away, and at times, through
broken rifts in the clouds, stars would gleam out. Instead of the
continued roar and rush, the wind blew in gusts at longer intervals,
and nature seemed like a passionate child that had cried itself to
sleep. The fitful blasts were the involuntary sobs that heave the
breast, till at last quiet and peace take the place of stormy anger.

It seemed as if the silent watcher never could withdraw her gaze from
the beautiful world of her vision. Never had it seemed so near and
real before, and she was unconscious of the lapse of time. Suddenly
she heard her name called--"Ethel!"

If the voice had come from the imaginary world present to her fancy,
it could not have startled her more for a moment. Then she realized
that it was her husband who spoke. He had called her name in his sleep,
and yet it seemed a call of God. At once it flashed through her mind
that in dreaming of a glorious and happy future she was forgetting him
and his need.

She turned the light upon his face. Never had he looked so pale and
wan, and she realized that he might be near his end. In an agony of
self-reproach and yearning tenderness she kneeled at his bedside and
prayed as she never had prayed before. Could he go home? Could he be
received, feeling toward his Father as he did? He had talked of
forgiving, when he stood so sorely in need of Christ's forgiveness;
and she had been forgetting that need, when every moment might involve
her husband's salvation. Out of his sleep he had called her to his
help. Perhaps God had used his unconscious lips to summon her. With
a faith naturally strong, but greatly increased by the vision of the
night, she went, as it were, directly into the presence of her Lord,
and entreated in behalf of her husband.

As she thus knelt at the bedside, with her face buried in the covering,
she felt a hand placed softly on her head, and again her husband's
voice called, "Ethel!"

She looked up and saw that he was awake now, his eyes fixed on her
with an expression of softness and tenderness that she had not seen
for many a long day. The old restless, anxious light had gone.

"What were you doing, Ethel?" he asked. "Praying that you might see
that God loved you--that you might be reconciled to Him."

Two great tears gathered in the man's eyes. His lips quivered a moment,
then he said, brokenly, "Surely God must love me, or He would never
have given me--a wife--who would watch and pray for me--the long
winter night."

"Oh, Dennis, forgive me; I cannot deceive you; for a time I forgot
you, I forgot everything, and just wandered through Paradise alone.
But in your sleep you called me to your help, and now it seems as if
I could not be happy even there without you. I pray you, in Christ's
stead, be reconciled to God," she pleaded, falling into the familiar
language of Scripture, as she often did under strong emotion. Then,
in low, thrilling words, she portrayed to him the "new earth" of her
vision, wherein "God shall wipe away all tears, and there shall be no
more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more
pain." She showed him that all might still be well--that eternity was
long enough to make up for the ills of our brief troubled life here.
But his mind seemed preoccupied. These future joys did not take that
hold upon him that she earnestly desired. His eyes seemed to grow dim
in tender, tearful wistfulness, rather than become inspired with
immortal hopes. At last he spoke:

"Ethel, it seemed as if I heard some one calling me. I woke up--and
there you--were praying--for me. I heard my name--I heard God's
name--and I knew that you were interceding for me. It seemed to break
my hard heart right up like the fountains of the great deep to see you
there--praying for me--in the cold, cold room." (The room was not
cold; it was not the winter's chill that he was feeling, but a chill
that comes over the heart even in the tropical summer.) "Then, as you
prayed, a great light seemed to shine into my soul. I saw that I had
been charging God unjustly with all my failures and misfortunes, when
I had to thank myself for them. Like a wilful child, I had been acting
as if God had but to carry out my wild schemes. I remembered all my
unreasonable murmurings and anger; I remembered the dreadful words I
was on the point of uttering tonight, and for a moment it seemed as
if the pit would open and swallow me up."

He paused for breath, and then went on:

"But as my despairing eyes glanced restlessly around, they fell upon
the face of my son, noble and beautiful even in sleep, and I remembered
how God had brought him safely back. Then your low, pleading tone fixed
my attention again. It seemed to me that God's love must be better and
stronger than human love, and yet you had loved me through all my folly
and weakness; so perhaps had He. Then I felt that such a prayer as you
were offering could not remain unheard, you seemed to pray so earnestly.
I felt that I ought to pray myself, and I commenced calling out in my
heart, 'God be merciful to me--a sinner.' Then while I prayed, I
seemed to see my Saviour's face right above your bowed head. Oh, how
reproachfully He looked at me! and yet His expression was full of love,
too. It was just such a look, I think, that He fixed on Peter when he
denied Him. Then it seemed that I fell down at His feet and wept
bitterly, and as I did so the look of reproach passed away, and only
an expression of love and forgiveness remained. A sudden peace came
into my soul which I cannot describe; a rush of tears into my eyes;
and when I had wiped them away, I saw only your bowed form
praying--praying on for me. And, Ethel dear, my patient, much-enduring
wife, I believe God has answered your prayer. I feel that I am a new

"God be praised!" exclaimed his wife, with streaming eyes. Then in a
sudden rush of tenderness she clasped her husband to her heart, her
strong love seeming like the echo of God's love, the earnest here on
earth of that above, where all barriers shall pass away.

The sound of their voices toward the last had awakened their son, and
he now stood beside them with wet eyes and heaving breast.

When the wife rose from her embrace, she saw that her husband was very
weak. For a few moments he gasped for breath. Then, getting a little
easier, he looked up and saw his son, and exclaimed: "Thank God--my
boy--thank God--you are here. Ah, my son--I have learned much--since
we spoke together last. I have seen that--I have much more--need of
forgiveness than--to forgive. Thanks to your--mother's prayers--I
believe--I feel sure that I am forgiven."

"More thanks to God's love, Dennis," said his wife. "God wanted to
forgive you all the time more than we wanted Him to. Thank God, who
is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us. He is
longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish."

"Those are sweet words, wife, and I have found them true."

For a little time they sat with clasped hands, their hearts too full
to speak. Faint streaks along the eastern horizon showed that the dawn
was near. The sick man gave a slight shiver, and passed his hands
across his eyes as if to clear away a mist, and then said, feebly:
"Dennis, my son--won't you turn up the lamp a little--and fix the fire?
The room seems getting so cold--and dark."

The wife looked at her son in quick alarm. The stove was red-hot, and
the lamp, no longer shaded, stood openly on the table.

The son saw that he must take the lead in the last sad scene, for in
the presence of death the heart of the loving, constant woman clung
to her husband as never before. Throwing herself on her knees by his
side, she cried with loud, choking sobs, "Oh, Dennis--husband--I
fear--you are leaving me!"

"Is this death?" he asked of his son, in an awed tone.

"I fear it is, father," said the young man, gently.

After a moment his father said, composedly: "I think you are right.
I feel that--my end is near, Ethel--darling--for my sake--try to be
calm--during the last few moments I am with you."

A few stifled sobs and the room was still.

"I have but little time to--put my house--in order--and if I had
months--I could not do it. Dennis, I leave you--little else--than
debts--embarrassments, and the record of many failures. You must
do--the best you can. I am not able to advise you. Only never love this
world as I have. It will disappoint you. And, _whatever happens,
never lose faith in the goodness of God_. This has been my bane.
It has poisoned my life here, and, had it not been for this dear wife,
it would have been my destruction here-after. For long years--only her
patient love--has stood between me and a miserable end. Next to God--I
commit her and your little sisters to your care. Be true to this most
sacred trust.

"Ethel, dear, my more than wife--my good angel--what shall I say to
you?" and the man's lip quivered, and for a time he could say no more.
But the unwonted composure had come into his wife's manner. The eyes
were gaining that intent look which was their expression when picturing
to herself scenes in the life beyond.

"Oh, Dennis, we seem just on the confines of a glorious world--it is
so near, so real--it seems as if but a step would take us all into it.
Oh! if you could but see its beauties, its glories--if you could hear
the music, you would not fear to enter. It seems as if we were there
together now."

"Oh, Ethel, come back, come back," cried her husband, piteously. "I
am not worthy of all that. I have no heart for glory now. I can see
only my Saviour's face looking--at me--with love and forgiveness.
That is heaven enough for me--and when you come--my cup will be more
than full. And now--farewell--for a little while."

For a few moments they clung to each other. Then the little girls were
brought, and their father pressed his cold lips to their warm, fresh
young faces. They wondered at a scene they could not understand, and
were tearful because of the tears of others.

He was now going very fast. Suddenly he turned to his son and said,
"Dennis, repeat to me that verse, 'This is a faithful saying--'"

With a voice hoarse and broken by emotion, his son complied: "This is
a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus
came into the world to save sinners."

"Of whom I am chief," said his father, emphatically. "And yet"--his face
lighting up with a wan smile, like a sudden ray of light falling
on a clouded landscape before the sun sinks below the horizon--"and
yet forgiven."

By and by he again whispered, "Forgiven!" Then his eyes closed, and
all was still. They thought he was gone. But as they stood over him
in awed, breathless silence, his lips again moved. Bending down, they
heard in faint, far-away tones, like an echo from the _other side,



Scarcely was the last word spoken when a sudden glory filled the room.
So brilliant was the light that mother and son were startled. Then
they saw what had been unnoted before, that day had broken, and that
the sun, emerging from a single dark cloud, was shining, full-orbed,
into the apartment with a light that, reflected from myriads of snowy
crystals, was doubly luminous. Nevertheless it seemed to them a good
omen, an earnest, an emblem of the purer, whiter light into which the
cleansed and pardoned spirit had entered. The snow-wrapped prairie was
indeed pure and bright, but it was _cold_. The Father's embrace,
receiving home the long-absent, erring, but forgiven child, would be
warm indeed.

Though the bereaved wife believed that a brighter dawn than that which
made the world resplendent around her had come to her husband, still
a sense of desolation came over her which only those can understand
who have known a loss like hers. For years he had filled the greater
part of time, thought, and heart. As she saw her first and only love,
the companion of a life which, though hard, still had the light and
solace of mutual affection--as she saw him so still, and realized that
she would hear him speak no more--_complain_ no more (for even the
weaknesses of those we love are sadly missed after death)--a flood
of that natural sorrow which Christianity consoles, but was never
designed to prevent, overwhelmed her, and she gave way utterly.

Her son took her in his arms and held her silently, believing that
unspoken sympathy was worth more at such a time than any words.

After the convulsive sobbing had somewhat ceased, he struck the right
chord by saying: "Mother, father is not lost to us. He himself said
good-by only for a little while. Then you have us to love and think
of; and remember, what could we do without you?"

The unselfish woman would have tried to rise from a bed of death to
do anything needed by her loved ones, and this reminder of those still
dependent on her care proved the most potent of restoratives. She at
once arose and said: "Dennis, you are right. It is indeed wrong for
me to give way thus, when I have so much to be thankful for--so much
to live for. But, O Dennis! you cannot understand this separation of
husband and wife, for God said, 'They twain shall be one flesh'; and
it seems as if half my very life had gone--as if half my heart had
been wrenched away, and only a bleeding fragment left."

The patter of feet was heard on the kitchen floor, the door opened,
and two little figures in white trailing nightgowns entered. At first
they looked in shy wonder and perplexity at their tall brother, whom
they had not seen for months, but at his familiar voice, recalling
many a romp and merry time together, they rushed to his arms as of old.

Then they drew near the bed to give their father his accustomed morning
kiss; but, as they approached, he seemed so still that awe began to
creep over their little faces. A dim recollection of the farewell kiss
given a few hours before, when they were scarcely awake, recurred to

"Father," said the elder (about five), "we want to give you good-
morning kiss."

Seldom had their father been so sick or irritable but that he reached
out his arms to his little ones and gave them a warm embrace, that did
him more good than he realized. The influence of trusting children is
sometimes the most subtile oil that can be thrown on the troubled
waters of life.

But as the little ones saw that their father made no response to their
approach and appeal, they timidly drew a step nearer, and looked into
his wasted, yet peaceful face, with its closed eyes and motionless
repose, and then, turning to their mother, said in a loud whisper,
with faces full of perplexity and trouble, "Is papa asleep?"

The little figures in their white drapery, standing beside their dead
father, waiting to perform the usual, well-remembered household rite,
proved a scene too touching for the poor mother's self-control, and
again she gave way to a burst of sorrow. But her son, true to his
resolution to be the stay and strength of the family, hastened to the
children, and, taking them by the hand, said gently: "Yes, little ones,
papa is asleep. It may be a long time before he wakes, but he surely
will by and by, and then he will never be sick any more. Come, we will
go into the other room and sing a pretty hymn about papa's sleep."

The thought of hearing their brother sing lured them away at once, for
he had a mellow tenor voice that seemed to the little girls sweeter
than a bird's. A moment later the widow's heart was comforted by hearing
those words that have been balm for so many wounds:

"Asleep in Jesus! blessed sleep!
From which none ever wakes to weep."

Then, putting on his sisters' flannel wrappers, he set them down by
the fire, telling stories in the meantime to divert their thoughts
from the scene they had just witnessed.

Thus no horror of death was suffered to enter their young minds. They
were not brought face to face with a dreadful mystery which they could
not understand, but which would have a sinister effect for life.
Gradually they would learn the truth, but still the first impression
would remain, and their father's death would ever be to them a sleep
from which he would wake by and by, "never to be sick any more."

Dennis set about preparations for their simple morning meal so deftly
and easily as to show that it was no unaccustomed task. A sister older
than himself had died while yet an infant, leaving a heartache till
he came--God's best remedy. Then two sisters had died after his day,
and he had been compelled to be to his mother daughter as well as son,
to make himself useful in every household task. His father had been
wrapped up in useless inventions, vain enterprises, and was much away.
So mother and son were constantly together. He had early become a great
comfort and help to her, God blessing her in this vital respect, though
her lot seemed hard in other ways. Thus, while he had the heart and
courage of a man, he also had the quick, supple hand and gentle bearing
of a woman, when occasion required. As proof of his skill, a tempting
meal from the simplest materials was placed smoking on the table, and
the little girls were soon chatting contentedly over their breakfast.
In the meantime the wife within had drawn near her dead husband and
taken his cold hand. For a while she dwelt on the past in strong and
tearful agony, then, in accordance with long-established habit, her
thoughts went forward into the future. In imagination she was present
at her husband's reception in heaven. The narrow, meagre room melted
away, and her feet seemed to stand on the "golden pavement." The
jubilant clash of heavenly cymbals thrilled her heart. She seemed
taking part in a triumphal march led by celestial minstrelsy toward
the throne. She saw her husband mount its white, glistening steps, so
changed, and yet so like his former self when full of love, youth, and
hope. He appeared overwhelmed with a sense of unworthiness, but his
reception was all the more kind and reassuring. Then as he departed
from the royal presence, crowned with God's love and favor forever,
though he had all heaven before him, he seemed looking for her as that
he longed for most, and her strong effort to reach his side aroused
her from her revery as from a dream. But her vision had strengthened
her, as was ever the case, and the bitterness of grief was passed.
Imprinting a long kiss on her husband's cold forehead, she joined her
family in the outer room with calm and quiet mien. Her son saw and
understood the change in his mother's manner, and from long experience
knew its cause.

We need not dwell on what followed--preparations for burial, the
funeral, the return to a home from which one who had filled so large
a place had gone--a home on which rested the shadow of death. These
are old, familiar scenes, acted over and over every day, and yet in
the little households where they occur there is a terrible sense of
novelty as if they then happened for the first time. The family feel
as if they were passing through a chaotic period--the old world breaking
up and vanishing, and a new formation and combination of all the
elements that make up life taking place.

Many changes followed. Their farm was sold. Part of a small house in
the village of Bankville was rented as their future residence. A very
small annuity from some property in the East, left by Mrs. Fleet's
father, was, with Dennis's labor, all the family had to depend on
now--a meagre prospect.

But Dennis was very sanguine; for in this respect he had his father's
temperament. The world was all before him, and Chicago, the young and
giant city of the West, seemed an Eldorado, where fortune, and perhaps
fame, might soon be won. He would not only place the family beyond
want, but surround them with every luxury.

Dennis, wise and apt as far as his knowledge went, was in some respects
as simple and ignorant as a child. There were many phases and conditions
of society of which he had never dreamed. Of the ways of the rich and
fashionable, of the character of artificial life, he had not the
remotest experience. He could not see or understand the distinctions
and barriers that to the world are more impassable than those of
ignorance, stupidity, and even gross immorality. He would learn, to
his infinite surprise, that even in a Western democratic city men would
be welcomed in society whose hand no pure woman or honorable man ought
to touch, while he, a gentleman by birth, education, and especially
character, would not be recognized at all. He would discover that
wealth and the indorsement of a few fashionable people, though all
else were lacking, would be a better passport than the noblest qualities
and fine abilities. As we follow him from the seclusion of his simple
country home into the complicated life of the world, all this will
become apparent.

Long and earnest was the conversation between mother and son before
they separated. Pure and noble were the maxims that she sought to
instil into his mind. They may not have been worldly wise, but they
were heavenly wise. Though some of her advice in the letter might avail
little, since she knew less of the world than did her son, still in
its spirit it contained the best of all wisdom, profitable for this
life and the life to come. But she sent him forth to seek his fortune
and theirs with less solicitude than most mothers have just cause to
feel, for she knew that he had Christian principle, and had passed
through discipline that had sobered and matured him far beyond his
years. She saw, however, in every word and act his father's sanguine
temperament. He was expecting much, hoping far more, and she feared
that he also was destined to many a bitter disappointment. Still she
believed that he possessed a good strong substratum of common-sense,
and this combined with the lessons of faith and patience taught of God
would prove the ballast his father had lacked.

She sought to modify his towering hopes and rose-colored visions, but
to little purpose. Young, buoyant, in splendid health, with a surplus
of warm blood tingling in every vein, how could he take a prudent,
distrustful view of the world? It seemed to beckon him smilingly into
any path of success he might choose. Had not many won the victory? and
who ever felt braver and more determined than he, with the needs of
the dear ones at home added to his own incentives and ambitions? So,
with many embraces, lingering kisses, and farewell words, that lost
not their meaning though said over and over again, they parted. The
stage carried him to the nearest railway station, and the express train
bore him rapidly toward the great city where he expected to find all
that a man's heart most craves on earth.

Sanguine as his father, constant as his mother, with a nature that
would go right or wrong with tremendous energy, as direction might be
given it, he was destined to live no tame, colorless life, but would
either enjoy much, or else suffer much. To his young heart, swelling
with hopes, burning with zeal to distinguish himself and provide for
those he was leaving, even the bleak, snow-clad prairie seemed an arena
in which he might accomplish a vague something.



The train, somewhat impeded by snow, landed Dennis in Chicago at about
nine in the evening. In his pocket he had ten dollars--ample seed corn,
he believed, for a golden harvest. This large sum was expected to
provide for him till he should find a situation and receive the first
instalment of salary. He would inform his employer, when he found him,
how he was situated, and ask to be paid early and often.

Without a misgiving he shouldered the little trunk that contained his
worldly effects, and stalked off to a neighboring hotel, that, from
its small proportions, suggested a modest bill. With a highly important
man-of-the-world manner he scrawled his name in an illegible,
student-like hand on the dingy, dog-eared register. With a gracious,
condescending air he ordered the filthy, tobacco-stained porter to
take his trunk to his room.

The bar-room was the only place provided for strangers. Regarding the
bar with a holy horror, he got away from it as far as possible, and
seated himself by the stove, on which simmered a kettle of hot water
for the concoction of punches, apparently more in demand at that hotel
than beds. Becoming disgusted with the profanity and obscenity
downstairs, he sought refuge in the cold, miserable little room assigned
to him. Putting on his overcoat, he wrapped himself up in a coverlet
and threw himself down on the outside of the bed.

The night passed slowly. He was too uncomfortable, too excited, to
sleep. The scenes of the past blended confusedly with visions of the
future, and it was nearly morning when he fell into an unquiet slumber.

When at last aroused by the shriek of a locomotive, he found that the
sun was up and shining on the blotched and broken wall above him. A
few minutes sufficed for his toilet, and yet, with his black curling
hair, noble forehead, and dark, silken upper lip, many an exquisite
would have envied the result.

His plan was simple enough--dictated indeed by the necessities of the
case. He must at once find a situation in which he could earn sufficient
to support his mother and sisters and himself. Thence he could look
around till he found the calling that promised most. Having left college
and given up his chosen profession of the law, he had resolved to adopt
any honest pursuit that seemed to lead most quickly to fortune.

Too impatient to eat his breakfast, he sallied forth into the great
city, knowing not a soul in it. His only recommendations and credentials
were his young, honest face, and a letter from his minister, saying
that he was a member of the church in Bankville, "in good and regular
standing," and, "as far as he knew, a most worthy young man"--rather
meagre capital amid the competitions of a large city. But, with courage
bold and high, he strode off toward the business part of the town.

As he passed the depot it occurred to him that an opening might exist
there. It would be a good post of observation, and perhaps he would
be able to slip home oftener. So he stopped and asked the man in the
ticket-office, blandly, "Do you wish to employ a young man in connection
with this depot or road in any capacity?"

The ticket-man stared at him a moment through his window, frowned, and
curtly said, "No!" and then went on counting what seemed to poor Dennis
millions of money. The man had no right to say yes or no, since he was
a mere official, occupying his own little niche, with no authority
beyond. But an inveterate feud seemed to exist between this man and
the public. He acted as if the world in general, instead of any one
in particular, had greatly wronged him. It might be a meek woman with
a baby, or a bold, red-faced drover, a delicately-gloved or horny hand
that reached him the change, but it was all the same. He knitted his
brows, pursed up his mouth, and dealt with all in a quick, jerking
way, as if he could not bear the sight of them, and wanted to be rid
of them as soon as possible. Still these seem just the peculiarities
that find favor with railroad corporations, and the man would probably
vent his spite against the public throughout his natural life.

From him, however, Dennis received his first dash of cold water, which
he minded but little, and went on his way with a good-natured laugh
at the crusty old fellow.

He was soon in the business part of the city. Applying at a large
dry-good store, he was told that they wanted a cash boy; "but he would
not do; one a quarter his size would answer."

"Then I will go where they want the other three-fourths and pay
accordingly," said Dennis, and stalked out.

He continued applying at every promising place, but to no purpose. It
was midwinter; trade was dull; and with clerks idling about the shops
employers were in no mood to add to their number.

At last he found a place where an assistant book-keeper was wanted.
Dennis's heart leaped within him, but sank again as he remembered how
little he knew of the art. "But I can learn quickly," he thought to

The man looked carelessly at his poor little letter, and then said,
in a business-like tone, "Show me a specimen of your handwriting."

Poor Dennis had never written a good hand, but at college had learned
to write a miserable scrawl, in rapidly taking notes of lectures.
Moreover, he was excited, and could not do himself justice. Even from his
sanguine heart hope ebbed away; but he took the pen and scratched
a line or two, of which he himself was ashamed. The man looked at them
with an expression of mild disgust, and then said, "Mr. Jones, hand
me your ledger."

The head book-keeper passed the volume to his employer, who showed
Dennis entries looking as from copper-plate, and quietly remarked:
"The young man we employ must write like that, and thoroughly understand
book-keeping. Good-morning, sir."

Dennis walked out, feeling almost as crestfallen as if he had been
convicted of stealing, but the noon-day sun was shining in the sky,
the streets were full of life and bustle, and hope revived.

"I shall find the right niche before long," he said to himself, and
trudged on.

Some time after he entered a retail dry-goods store.

"Yes, they wanted a young man there, but he was rather old."

Still the merchant saw that Dennis was fine-looking, would appear well
behind the counter, and make a taking salesman with the ladies, he
stopped to parley a moment more.

"Do you understand the business?"

"No, sir; but I can soon learn, for I am young and strong."

"Strength is not what is needed, but experience. Ours is not the kind
of work for Paddies."

"Well, sir," said Dennis, rather shortly, "I'm not a Paddy."

The dapper little retailer frowned slightly at Dennis's tone, and
continued: "You spoke as if main strength was the principal thing.
Have you had any experience at all?"

"No, sir."

But seeing intelligence in the young man's face, and scenting a sharp
bargain, he said, "Why, then, you would have to begin at tho very
beginning, and learn the name of everything, its quality, etc."

"Yes, sir; but I would do my very best."

"Of course, of course, but nothing can take the place of experience.
I expect, under the circumstances, you would look for very little
remuneration the first year?"

"How much could you give?"

The man named a sum that would not have supported Dennis alone.

He replied that, though his services might not be worth more than that,
he was so situated that he could not take a very small salary.

"Then bring something besides ignorance to the market," said the man,
turning on his heel.

Dennis was now hungry, tired, and disappointed. Indeed the calls of
appetite became so clamorous that he sought a cheap restaurant. After
demolishing a huge plate of such viands as could be had at little cost,
he sat brooding over a cup of coffee for an hour or more. The world
wore a different aspect from that which it had presented in the morning,
and he was lost in a sort of dull, painful wonder.

But the abundant meal and slight element of coffee that colored the
lukewarm water quite heartened him again. He resolved to go back to
his hotel and find a more quiet and comfortable place in which to lodge
until something permanent offered. He made what he considered sufficient
inquiry as to the right direction, and resolved to save even the carfare
of five cents by walking the distance.

But whether he had not understood the directions rightly, or whether,
brooding over the events of the day, his mind had been too preoccupied
to heed them, he found to his great disgust, after walking two or three
miles, that he had gone away from his destination instead of toward
it. Angry with himself, out of humor with all the world, he began to
give way to the latent obstinacy of his nature. Though everything went
"contrairy," there was one thing under his control--himself--and he
would make that do the bidding of his will.

Turning on his heel, he resolved with dogged resolution to walk back
the whole distance. He would teach himself a lesson. It was fine
business, just when he needed his wits so sorely, to commence blundering
in this style. No wonder he had failed during the day; he deserved to
fail in other respects, since in this one he had not shown the good
sense of a child.

When people are "out of sorts," and things are going wrong, the
disposition to blame somebody or something is almost universal. But
we think that it will be found a safe general rule, that the nobler
the nature, the less worthy of blame, the greater the tendency to blame
self rather than anything else. Poor Dennis had no great cause for
bitter reproaches, and yet he plodded on with an intense feeling of

To think that after New-England schools and three years in college he
should write such a hand and have no definite knowledge of book-keeping!
"What have I learned, I'd like to know?" he muttered. Then to go and
lose his way like a country bumpkin! and he gnawed his lips with

The street-cars glided often and invitingly by, but he would not even
look at them.

At last, foot-sore and fairly aching with cold and fatigue, he reached
the little hotel, which appeared more miserable, obscure, and profane
than ever. But a tempting fiend seemed to have got into the gin and
whiskey bottles behind the red-nosed bartender. To his morbid fancy
and eyes, half-blinded with wind and cold, they appeared to wink,
beckon, and suggest: "Drink and be merry; drink and forget your
troubles. We can make you feel as rich and glorious as a prince, in
ten minutes."

For the first time in his life Dennis felt a strong temptation to drink
for the sake of the effects. When was a man ever weak that the devil
did not charge down upon him?

But the evil and ruin wrought in one case proved another's safeguard,
for the door opened and a miserable wreck of a man entered. As Dennis
looked at his blotched, sodden face, trembling hand, shuffling gait,
and general air of wretchedness, embodying and suggesting the worst
ills of humanity, he decided not to drink for the sake of the effects.

Then came another rush of self-disgust that he had ever entertained
such a temptation, and he flung himself off supperless to bed.

As he bowed that night he could not pray as usual. For anger, passion
with one's self, as well as with any one else, renders true prayer
impossible. But he went through the form, and then wrapped himself up
as before. The wearied body soon mastered the perturbed mind, and he
fell into a heavy sleep that lasted till morning.



Dennis awoke greatly refreshed and strengthened. For half an hour he
lay quietly thinking over the scenes of the preceding day; something
of his old anger returned, but he compressed his lips, and, with a
face expressing the most resolute purpose, determined that the day
before him should tell a different story. Every faculty and energy he
possessed should be skilfully bent to the attainment of his objects.
Wise deliberation should precede everything. He would write a few lines
to his mother, decide as to a lodging-place, and then seek better
success in another part of the city. He went to the bar and inquired
as to his bill, and found that so far as bed and meals were concerned,
such as they were, he could not find anything cheaper in the city, the
house evidently not depending on these for its revenue. Disgusted as
he was with his surroundings, he resolved to lose no time in looking
for a new boarding-place, but, after writing to his mother, to start
off at once in search of something permanent. He was in no mood to
consult personal wishes, and the saving of time and money settled the

Where should he write? There was no place save a desk at the end of
the bar. Looking askance at the half-filled, villanous-smelling bottle
at his elbow, he wrote in a hand stiff and unnatural (for he had
resolved to change his scrawl to a business hand at once), the following

"CHICAGO, ILL., Jan. 10th.

"DEAR MOTHER--I arrived safely, and am very well. I did not, yesterday,
find a situation suited to my taste, but expect better success to-day.
I am just on the point of starting out on my search, and when settled
will write you full particulars. Many kisses for yourself and the
little girls. Your affectionate son, DENNIS."

"There! there is nothing in that to worry mother, and soon I shall
have good news for her." (If he had seen its reception, he would have
learned his mistake. The intuitions of love are keen, and this formal
negative note in the constrained hand told more of his disappointment
than any words could have done. While he knew it not, his mother was
suffering with him. In reply she wrote a letter full of general
sympathy, intending to be more specific when he gave her his

Dennis folded the letter most carefully and mailed it--for he was now
doing the least thing with the utmost precision--with the air of one
who meant to find out the right thing to do, and then to do it to a
hair-breadth. Nothing should go wrong that day. So at an early hour
he again sallied forth.

Not far from the hotel there was a new grocery store about to be opened
by two young men, formerly clerks, but now setting up for themselves.
They stood at the door receiving a cart-load of goods as Dennis
approached. He had made up his mind to ask at every opportunity, and
to take the first thing that promised fairly; he would also be very
polite. Touching his hat to the young men--a little act pleasing to
them in their newly acquired dignity as heads of a firm which as yet
had no subordinates--Dennis asked if they would need any assistance.
Graciously replying to his salutations, they answered, yes; they wanted
a young man.

Dennis explained that he was from the country, and showed the
ministerial letter. The young grocers looked wise over it, seemed
pleased, said they wanted a young fellow from the country, that was
not up to city tricks. Chicago was a hard place on young men--spoiled
most of them. Glad he was a member of the church. They were not, but
believed a man must be mighty good to be one. As the young man they
hired must sleep in the store, they wanted one they could trust, and
would prefer a church member.

The salary they offered was not large, but pretty fair in view of his
having so much to learn, and it was intimated, that if business was
good, and he suited, it would be increased. The point uppermost in
their minds was to find some one with whom they could trust their store
and goods, and this young man from the country, with a letter from a
minister, seemed a godsend.

They engaged him, but just as he was starting, with heart swelling
with self-satisfaction and joy, one of the firm asked, carelessly,
"Where are you staying?'"

"At Gavin's Hotel."

The man turned sharply, and looked most suspiciously at him, and then
at his partner, who gave a low whistle of surprise, and also eyed the
young man for a moment askance. Then the men stepped aside, and there
was a brief whispered consultation. Dennis's heart sank within him.
He saw that something was wrong, but what, he had not the least idea.
The elder member of the embryo firm now stepped up and said, decidedly,
"Good-morning, young man; we shall not need your services."

"What do you mean?" cried Dennis, in a voice of mingled dismay and

The man's face was growing red with anger, but he said, coldly, "You
had better move on. _We_ understand."

"But _I_ don't understand, your course toward me is most unjust."

"Look here, young man, we are too old birds to be caught by any such
light chaff as you have about you. You are a pretty church member, you
are! You are a smart one, you are; nice boy, just from the country;
suppose you do not know that Gavin's Hotel is the worst gambling hole
in the city, and every other man that goes there a known thief. Come,
you had better move on if you do not want to get into trouble. You
will make nothing here."

"But I tell you, gentlemen--" cried Dennis, eagerly.

"_You_ may tell what you please. _We_ tell you that we would not believe
any one from that den under oath. Now you leave!"

The last words were loud and threatening. The attention of passers-by
was drawn toward them, and Dennis saw that further words were useless.
In the minds of shrewd but narrow business men, not over-honest
themselves, more acquainted with the trickery of the world than with
its virtues, suspicion against any one is fatal, and most assuredly
so against a stranger with appearances unfavorable.

With heart wellnigh bursting with anger, disappointment, and shame,
Dennis hastened away. He had been regarded as a thief, or at best a
blackleg, seeking the position for some sinister purpose. This was the
opening scene of the day on which he had determined that no mistakes
should be made, and here at the outset he had allowed himself to be
identified with a place of notorious ill-repute.

Reaching the hotel, he rushed upstairs, got his trunk, and then turned
fiercely on the red-nosed bartender-"Why did you not tell me the
character of this place?"

"What kind of a place is it?" asked that functionary, coolly, arms

"You know well enough. You knew I was not one of your sort."

"You don't mean to say that this is a bad place, do you?" said the
barkeeper, in mock solemnity.

"Yes, the worst in Chicago. There is your money."

"Hold on here, my small chicken; there is some money, but not enough
by a jugful. I want five dollars out of you before you take that trunk

"Why, this is sheer robbery," exclaimed Dennis.

"Oh, no; just keeping up the reputation of the house. You say it is
the worst in Chicago: must try and keep up our reputation."

"Little fear of that; I will not pay it;" and Dennis started for his

"Here, let that trunk alone; and if yer don't give me that five dollars
cussed quick, I'll put a head on yer;" and he of the red nose put his
hands on the bar in readiness to spring over.

"I say, young feller," said a good-natured loafer standing by, "you
had better gin him the five dollars; for Barney is the worst one in
all Chicago to put a head on a man."

"And will you stand by and see this outrage?" said Dennis, appealing
to him.

"Oh, gosh!" said the man, "I've got quarrels 'nough of my own without
getting my head broke for fellers I don't know."

Dennis was almost speechless from indignation. Conscious of strength,
his strong impulse for a moment was to spring at the throat of the
barkeeper and vent his rage on him. There is a latent tiger in every
man. But a hand seemed to hold him back, and a sober second thought
came over him. What! Dennis Fleet, the son of Ethel Fleet, brawling,
fighting in a bar-room, a gambling-den, and going out to seek a
situation that required confidence and fair-appearing, all blackened,
bruised, and bleeding! As the truth flashed upon him in strong revulsion
of feeling he fairly turned pale and sick.

"There's the money," said he, hoarsely, "and God forgive you."

In a moment he had taken his trunk and was gone. The barkeeper stared
after him, and then looked at the money with a troubled and perplexed

"Wal," said he, "I'm used enough to havin' folk ask God to damn me,
but I'm blessed if I ever had one ask Him to forgive me, before. I be
hanged," said he, after a moment, as the thought grew upon him--"I
be hanged if I wouldn't give him back the money if he hadn't gone so

With heart full of shame and bitterness, Dennis hastened down the
street. At the corner he met a policeman, and told him his story. All
the satisfaction he got was, "You ought not to go to such a place. But
you're lucky if they only took five dollars from you; they don't
let off many as easy as that."

"Can I have no redress?"

"Now look here; it's a pretty ticklish thing to interfere with them
fellers. It'll cost you plaguy sight more'n that, and blood, too, like
enough. If you'll take my advice, you won't stir up that hornet's



Dennis now followed the natural impulse to go to some distant part of
the city, entirely away from the region that had become so hateful to

Putting the trunk on the front of a street-car, he rode on till he was
in the heart of the south-side district, the great business centre.
He took his trunk into a roomy hardware store, and asked if he might
leave it there a while. Receiving a good-natured permission, he next
started off in search of a quiet, cheap boarding-place. His heart was
heavy, and yet he felt thankful to have escaped as he had, for the
thought of what might have been his experience if Barney had tried to
fulfil his threat sickened him. The rough was as strong as he, and
scenes of violence were his delight and daily experience. He rather
gloried in a black eye, for he always gave two in exchange, and his
own bruised, swollen member paved the way gracefully for the telling
of his exploits, as it awakened inquiry from the lesser lights among
whom he shone. But what would Dennis have done among the merchants
with "a head on him," as the barkeeper understood the phrase? He would
have had to return home, and that he felt would be worse than death.
In fact, he had come nearer to a desperate struggle than he knew, for
Barney rarely resisted so inviting an opportunity to indulge his
pugilistic turn, and had he not seen the policeman going by just at
that time, there would have been no idle threats in the case.

Dennis set his teeth with dogged resolution, determined if necessary,
to persevere in his search till he dropped in the street. But as he
remembered that he had less than five dollars left, and no prospect
of earning another, his heart grew like lead.

He spent several weary hours in the vain search for a boarding-house.
He had little to guide him save short answers from policemen. The
places were either too expensive, or so coarse and low that he could
not bring himself to endure them. In some cases he detected that they
were accompanied by worse evils than gambling. Almost in despair,
tired, and very hungry (for severe indeed must be the troubles that
will affect the appetite of healthful youth on a cold winter day), he
stopped at a small German restaurant and hotel. A round-faced, jolly
Teuton served him with a large plate of cheap viands, which he devoured
so quickly that the man, when asked for more, stared at him for a
moment, and then stolidly obeyed.

"What do you ask for a small room and bed for a night?" said Dennis.

"Zwei shillen," said the waiter, with a grin; "dot ish, if you don't
vant as pig ped as dinner. Ve haf zwei shillen for bed, and zwei shillen
for efery meal--von dollar a day--sheap!"

The place was comparatively clean. A geranium or two bloomed in the
window, and lager instead of fiery whiskey seemed the principal beverage
vended. Dennis went out and made inquiries, and every one in the
neighborhood spoke of it as a quiet, respectable place, though
frequented only by laboring people. "That is nothing against it,"
thought Dennis. "I will venture to stay there for a night or two, for
I must lose no more time in looking for a situation."

He took his trunk there, and then spent the rest of the day in
unavailing search. He found nothing that gave any promise at all. In
the evening he went to a large hotel and looked over the files of
papers. He found a few advertisements for clerks and experts of various
kinds, but more from those seeking places. But he noted down everything
hopeful, and resolved that he would examine the morning papers by
daylight for anything new in that line, and be the first on hand. His
new quarters, though plain and meagre, were at least clean. Too weary
to think or even to feel more than a dull ache in his heart, he slept
heavily till the dawn of the following day. Poor fellow! it seemed to
him that he had lived years in those two days.

He was up by daylight, and found a few more advertisements that looked
as if they might lead to something. As early as it was possible to see
the parties, he was on the ground, but others were there as soon as
himself. They had the advantage of some knowledge and experience in
the duties required, and this decided the question. Some spoke kindly,
and suggested that he was better fitted for teaching than for business.

"But where am I to find a position at this season of the year, when
every place is filled?" asked Dennis. "It might be weeks before I could
get anything to do, and I must have employment at once."

They were sorry, hoped he would do well, turned away, and went on doing
well for themselves; but the majority merely satisfied themselves that
he would not answer their purpose, and bade him a brief, business-like
good-morning. And yet the fine young face, so troubled and anxious,
haunted a good many of those who summarily dismissed him. But "business
is business."

The day passed in fruitless inquiry. Now and then he seemed on the
point of succeeding, but only disappointment resulted. There were at
that season of the year few situations offering where a salary
sufficient for maintenance was paid, and for these skilled laborers
were required. Dennis possessed no training for any one calling save
perhaps that of teacher. He had merely the fragment of a good general
education, tending toward one of the learned professions. He had fine
abilities, and undoubtedly would in time have stood high as a lawyer.
But now that he was suddenly called upon to provide bread for himself
and those he loved, there was not a single thing of which he could
say, "I understand this, sir, and can give you satisfaction."

He knew that if he could get a chance at almost anything, he could
soon learn enough to make himself more useful than the majority
employed, for few had his will and motive to work. But the point was
to find some one who would pay sufficient for his own and his mother's
support while he learned.

It is under just such circumstances that so many men, and especially
women, make shipwreck. Thrown suddenly upon their own resources, they
bring to the great labor-market of the world general intelligence, and
also general ignorance. With a smattering of almost everything, they
do not know practically how to do _one thing well_. Skilled hands,
though backed by neither heart nor brains, push them aside. Take the
young men or the young women of any well-to-do town or village, and
make them suddenly dependent upon their own efforts, and how many could
compete in any one thing with those already engaged in supplying the
market? And yet just such helpless young creatures are every day
compelled to shift for themselves. If to these unfortunates the paths
of honest industry seem hedged and thorny, not so those of sin. They
are easy enough at first, if any little difficulty with conscience can
be overcome; and the devil, and fallen humanity doing his work, stand
ready to push the wavering into them.

At the close of the next day, spent in weary search, Dennis met a
temptation to which many would have yielded. As a last resort he had
been going around among the hotels, willing to take even the situation
of porter, if nothing better offered. The day was fast closing, when,
worn out and dejected, he entered a first-class house, and made his
usual inquiry. The proprietor looked at him for a moment, slapped him
on the back, and said: "Yes, you are the man I want, I reckon. Do you
drink? No! might have known that from your face. Don't want a man that
drinks for this place. Come along with me, then. Will give you two and
a half a day if you suit, and pay you every night. I pay my help
promptly; they ain't near so apt to steal from you then."

And the man hurried away, followed by Dennis with beating heart and
flushed, wondering face. Descending a flight of stairs, they entered
a brilliantly lighted basement, which was nothing less than a large,
elegantly arranged bar-*room, with card and lunch-tables, and
easy-chairs for the guests to smoke and tipple in at their leisure.
All along one side of this room, resplendent with cut glass and polished
silver, ran the bar. The light fell warm and mellow on the various
kinds of liquor, that were so arranged as to be most tempting to the
thirsty souls frequenting the place.

Stepping up to the bulky man behind the bar the landlord said: "There,
Mr. Swig, is a young man who will fill capitally the place of the chap
we dismissed to-day for getting tight. You may bet your life from his
face that he don't drink. You can break him in in a few days, and you
won't want a better assistant."

For a moment a desperate wish passed through Dennis's mind, "Oh, that
wrong were right!" Then, indignant with himself, he spoke up, firmly--"I
think I have a word to say in this matter."

"Well, say on, then; what's the trouble?"

"I cannot do this kind of work."

"You will find plenty harder."

"None harder for one believing as I do. I will starve before I will
do this work."

The man stared at him for a moment, and then coolly replied, "Starve
then!" and turned on his heel and walked away.

Dennis also rushed from the place, followed by the coarse, jeering
laugh of those who witnessed the scene. In his morbid, suffering state
their voices seemed those of mocking demons.

The night had now fallen. He was too tired and discouraged to look any
further. Wearily he plodded up the street, facing the bitter blast
filled with snow that had begun to fall.

This then was the verdict of the world--"Starve!" This was the only
prospect it offered--that same brave world which had so smilingly
beckoned him on to great achievements and unbounded success but a few
days since--"Starve!" Every blast that swept around the corners howled
in his ears, "Starve!" Every warmly clad person hurrying unheedingly
by seemed to say by his indifference, "Starve! who cares? there is no
place for you, nothing for you to do."

The hard, stern resolution of the past few days, not to yield an inch,
to persist in hewing his way through every difficulty, began to flag.
His very soul seemed crushed within him. Even upon the threshold of
his life, in his strong, joyous youth, the world had become to him
what it literally was that night, a cold, wintry, stormy place, with
a black, lowering sky and hard, frozen earth.

His father's old temptation recurred to him with sudden and great
power. "Perhaps father was right," he mused. "God was against him, and
is also against me, his son. Does He not visit the iniquity of the
fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation? Not
but that He will save us at last, if we ask Him, but there seems some
great wrong that must be severely punished here. Or else if God does
not care much about our present life, thinking only of the hereafter,
there must be some blind fate or luck that crushes some and lifts up

Thus Dennis, too sad and morbid to take a just view of anything, plodded
on till he reached his boarding-place, and stealing in as if he had
no business to be there, or anywhere else, sat down in a dusky corner
behind the stove, and was soon lost to surrounding life in his own
miserable thoughts.



Dennis was too good a Christian, and had received too deep a lesson
in his father's case, to become bitter, angry, and defiant, even if
he had believed that God was against him. He would have felt that it
was simply his duty to submit--to endure patiently. Somehow Until
to-day his heart had refused to believe that God could be against any
of His creatures. In fact, it was his general impression that God had
everything to do with his being a good Christian, but very little with
his getting a good place. The defect in his religion, and that of his
mother, too, was that both separated the spiritual life of the soul
too widely from the present life with its material, yet essential,
cares and needs. At this point they, like multitudes of others, fell
short of their full privilege, and enjoyment of God's goodness. His
mother had cheered and sustained her hard lot by hopes and visions of
the better life beyond--by anticipating joys to come. She had never
fully learned how God's love, like the sunlight, could shine upon and
brighten the thorny, rocky way, and cause the thorns to blossom, and
delicate fragrant flowers to grow in the crevices and bloom in shaded
nooks among the sharp stones. She must wait for her consolation. She
must look out of her darkness to the light that shone through the
portals of the tomb, forgetting that God caused His servants to sing
at midnight, in the inner prison, the deepest dungeon, though scourged
and bleeding.

Unconsciously her son had imbibed the same ideas.

Most devoutly he asked every day to be kept from sin, that he might
grow in the Christian life; but he did not ask or expect, save in a
vague, general way, that help which a wise, good, earthly father would
give to a young, inexperienced child, struggling with the hard,
practical difficulties of this world. As the days grew darker and more
full of disappointment, he had asked with increasing earnestness that
he might be kept from sin--from falling before the many and peculiar
temptations that assailed him; and we have seen how God answered his
prayer, and kept him where so many would have fallen. But God meant
to show him that His goodness extended further than he thought, and
that He cared for His children's well-being now as truly as in the
hereafter, when He gathered them home into His immediate presence. But
Dennis could not see this now. As far as he thought at all on the
subject, he had the vague feeling that God was either trying his faith
or meting out some righteous judgment, and he must do the best he
could, and only see to it that he did not sin and give way morally.

Yet, in the thick night of his earthly prospects, Dennis still loved
and trusted God. He reasoned justly, that if at last brought to such
a place as heaven, no matter what he suffered here, he had only cause
for unbounded gratitude. And he felt sure that all would be right in
the end, but now feared that his life would be like his father's, a
tissue of disappointments, and that he, an unsuccessful voyager,
storm-tossed and shipwrecked, would be thrown upon the heavenly shore
by some dark-crested billow of misfortune.

Thus Dennis sat lost in gloomy musings, but too wearied in mind and
body to follow any line of thought long. A few stern facts kept looming
up before him, like rocks on which a ship is drifting. He had less
than a dollar in his pocket. It was Friday night. If he did not get
anything to do on Saturday, how was he going to live through Sunday
and the days that followed? Then his dependent mother and sisters rose
up before him. They seemed to his morbid fancy hungry and cold, and
their famine-pinched faces full of reproach. His head bowed lower, and
he became the very picture of dejection.

He was startled by a big, hearty voice at his side, exclaiming: "What
makes yer so down in the mouth? Come, take a drink, and cheer up!"

Raising his eyes, he saw a round, red face, like a harvest moon, shining
full upon him. It was somewhat kindly in its expression, in keeping
with the words. Rough as was the courtesy, it went straight to the
lonely, discouraged heart of the young man, and with moistened eyes
he said, "I thank you for speaking to me in a tone that has a little
human touch in it, for the last man that spoke to me left an echo in
my ear that I would gladly get out of it."

"Bad luck to him, then! Give us yer hand; there!" with a grip like a
vise. "Bill Cronk never went back on a man he took to. I tell yer what,
stranger," said he, becoming confidential, "when I saw yer glowering
and blinking here in the corner as if yer was listening to yer own
funeral sermon, I be ---- if I could take a comfortable drink. Come,
now, take a good swig of old rye, and see how things will mellow up."

Our good Samaritan in this case was a very profane and disreputable
one, as many are in this medley world. He had a great, kindly nature,
that was crawling and grovelling in all sorts of low, unseemly places,
instead of growing straight up toward heaven.

"I hope you will think me none the less friendly if I decline," said
Dennis. "I would drink with you as quick as with any man living, but
it is a thing I never do."

"Oh, you're temperance, are yer? Well, I don't think none the wuss of
yer for standing by yer colors. Between us, it would be better for me
if I was a little more so. Hang it all! I take a drop too much now and
then. But what is a fellow to do, roughing it up and down the world
like me? I should often get lonely and mope in the corner as you did,
if I didn't get up steam. When I am down in the mouth I take a drink
to 'liven me up, and when I feel good I take a drink to make me feel
better. When I wouldn't take a drink on my own hook, I meet somebody
that I'd ought to drink with. It is astonishing how many occasions
there are to drink, 'specially when a man's travelling, like me."

"No fear but what the devil will make occasions enough," said Dennis.

"What has the devil got to do with it?" asked the man, gruffly.

Just then the miserable wretch entered who, appearing opportunely in
Gavin's Hotel, had cured Dennis of his desire to drink, when weary and
despondent, for the sake of the effects. For a moment they looked at
the blear-eyed, trembling wreck of a man, and then Dennis asked, "Had
God any hand in making that man what he is?"

"I should say not," said Bill Cronk, emphatically.

"Well, I should say the devil had," said Dennis; "and there behind the
bar are the means used--the best tool he has, it seems to me; for with
it he gets hold of men with some heart and soul in them, like you."

The man winced under the words that both conscience and experience
told him were true; at the same time he was propitiated by Dennis's
good opinion of him. He gave a big, good-natured laugh, slapped Dennis
on the shoulder, and said: "Wal, stranger, p'raps you're right. 'Tain't
every temperance lecturer though that has an awful example come in
just at the right time so slick. But you've stood by yer colors, and
we won't quarrel. Tell us, now, if it ain't private, what you're so
chopfallen about."

Dennis told his story, as grateful for this rough sympathy as a thirsty
traveller would be in finding a spring though surrounded by thorns and

The round, jolly face actually grew long and serious through interest
in the young man's tribulations.

After scratching a shaggy but practical head for a few moments, Bill
spoke as follows:

"Seems to me the case is just this: here you are, a young blooded colt,
not broken to either saddle or thills--here you are whinnying around a
market where they want nothing but dray-hosses. People look shy at
you--usually do at a strange hoss. Few know good p'ints when they see
'em. When they find you ain't broke in to nothin', they want you to
work for nothin'. I see how you can't do this. And yet fodder is runnin'
short, and you must do somethin'."

Bill, having dealt in live-stock all his life, naturally clothed his
thoughts in language drawn from familiar objects, and Dennis, miserable
as he was, half smiled at the close parallel run between him and a
young, useless colt; but he only said, "I don't think there is a
cart-horse in all Chicago that feels more broken down and dispirited
than I do to-night."

"That may all be, too," said Bill; "but you'd feel a little oats mighty
quick, and a cart-hoss wouldn't. But I know the p'ints, whether it's
a man or a hoss; you'd take kindly to work of the right sort, and it
would pay any one to take you at yer own terms, but you can't make 'em
see it. If I was in a situation to take you, I'd do it in a minute.
Hang it all! I can't do much for you, either. I took a drop too much
in Cleveland t'other night, and some of the folks in the house looked
over my pocket-book and left me just enough to get home with."

Dennis shook his head reproachfully and was about to speak.

"I know what you're going to say," said Bill, heading off another
temperance lecture. "I'll take a drink by and by, and think over what
you've said, for I can't think much until I get a little steam up. But
now we must try and see some way out of the fog for you;" and again
in absence of the wonted steam he scratched the shaggy head vigorously.

"Seems to me the best thing for you is to do as I did when I first
broke the home pasture and started out on a rampage. I just grabbed
the fust job that come along, good, bad, or indifferent--always kept
doing something. You can look for a bird in the bush quite well when
you've got one in the hand as when you hain't. To be sure I wasn't as
squeamish as you are. I'd jumped at the offer you had this afternoon;
but I reckon I'd taken toll too often to be very profitable. But in
this way I always kept a-goin'--never got down underfoot so the stronger
ones could tread on me. When it comes to that, I want to die. Now if
you've got plenty of clear grit--Leetle disposed to show the white
feather though, to-night, ain't yer?"

Dennis flushed up, and was about to speak, almost angrily.

"There! there!" said his new friend. "I said yer wasn't a cart-hoss:
one touch of the spur and up goes tail and ears, and then look out.
Are yer ashamed to do any kind of honest work? I mean kinder pious
work, that hasn't any smack of the devil you're so afraid of in it?"

"No! work is just what I want."

"Would you black boots, now?"

Dennis winced, thought a moment, and then, with a manly flush, said,
"Yes, before I would take a cent of charity from any living soul."

"Give us yer hand again. You're the kind of critter I like to invest
in; for you'd improve on a feller's hands. No fear about you; the only
thing is to get you in harness before a load that will pay to haul."

Suddenly he got up, strode to the bar-room door, looked out into the
night, and came back again.

"I think I know of a way in which you can make two or three dollars

"How?" exclaimed Dennis, his whole face lighting up with hope.

"Go to a hardware store, invest in a big wooden snow-shovel, and clean
off sidewalks before stores. You can pick up a good many quarters
before night, like enough."

"I will do it," said Dennis, heartily, "and thank you warmly for the
suggestion, and for your kindly interest generally," and he looked up
and felt himself another man.

"Gosh! but it takes mighty few oats to set you up! But come, and let
us have a little plain, substantial fodder. I will drink nothing but
coffee, to-night, out of compliment to you."

Cheered, comforted, and hopeful, Dennis sat down with his good
Samaritan, and made a hearty supper, after which they parted with a
strong friendly grip, and sincere good wishes, Cronk, the drover, going
on further west, and Dennis to the rest he so sorely needed.



Before retiring, Dennis as usual took his Bible from his trunk to read
a chapter. He was now in a very different mood from that of a few hours
ago. The suggestion of his bar-room acquaintance was a light upon his
way. And with one of Dennis's age and temperament, even a small hope
is potent. He was eager for the coming day, in order to try the
experiment of wringing bread and opportunity for further search out
of the wintry snows.

But that which had done him the most good--more than he realized--was
the kindness he had received, rough though it was--the sympathy and
companionship of another human being; for if he had been cast away on
a desert island he could not have been more isolated than in the great
city, with its indifferent multitudes.

Moreover the generous supper was not without its decided influence;
and with it he had drunk a cup of good coffee, that nectar of the gods,
whose subtile, delicate influence is felt in body and brain, in every
fibre of the nature not deadened and blunted by stronger and coarser
stimulants. He who leaves out physical causes in accounting for mental
and moral states, will usually come wide of the mark. But while giving
the influences above referred to their due force, so far from ignoring,
we would acknowledge with emphasis, the chief cause of man's ability
to receive and appreciate all the highest phases of truth and good,
namely, God's help asked for and given. Prayer was a habit with Dennis.
He asked God with childlike faith for the bestowment of every Christian
grace, and those who knew him best saw that he had no reason to
complain that his prayers were unanswered.

But now, at a time when he would most appreciate it, God was about to
reveal to him a truth that would be a rich source of help and comfort
through life, and a sudden burst of sunshine upon his dark way at the
present hour. He was to be shown how he might look to heaven for help
and guidance in respect to his present and earthly interests, as truly
as in his spiritual life.

As he opened his Bible his eyes caught the words of our Lord--"Launch
out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught."

Then Peter's answer--"Master, we have toiled all the night and have
taken nothing: nevertheless, at Thy word I will let down the net."

The result--"They inclosed a great multitude of fishes."

With these words light broke in upon his mind. "If our Lord," he mused,
"helped His first disciples catch fish, why should He not help me find
a good place?" Then unbelief suggested, "It was not for the sake of
the fish; they were only means to a higher end."

But Dennis, who had plenty of good common-sense, at once answered
this objection: "Neither do I want position and money for low, selfish
purposes. My ends are the best and purest, for I am seeking my own
honest living and the support of my mother and sisters--the very
imperative duties that God is now imposing on me. Would God reveal a
duty and no way of performing it?"

Then came the thought: "Have I asked Him to help me? Have I not been
seeking in my own wisdom, and trusting in my own strength? and this
too when my ignorance of business, the dull season of the year, and
everything was against me, when I specially needed help. Little wonder
that I have fared as I have."

Turning the leaves of his Bible rapidly, he began searching for
instances of God's interference in behalf of the temporal interests
of His servants--for passages where earthly prosperity was promised
or given. After an hour he closed the Bible with a long breath of
wonder, and said to himself "Why, God seems to care as much for the
well-being and happiness of his children here as He will when He has
us all about Him in the home above. I've been blind for twenty-one
years to one of the grandest truths of this Book."

Then, as the thought grew upon him, he exclaimed, joyously, "Take
heart, Dennis Fleet: God is on your side in the struggle for an honest
success in this life as truly as in your fight against sin and the

It was long before he slept that night, but a truth had been revealed
that rested and strengthened him more than the heavy slumbers after
the weary days that had preceded.

The dawn of the winter morning was cold and faint when Dennis appeared
in the bar-room the next day. The jolly-faced Teuton was making the
fire, stopping often to blow his cold fingers, and wasting enough good
breath to have kindled a furnace. His rubicund visage, surrounded by
shaggy hair and beard of yellow, here appeared in the dust and smoke
he was making like the sun rising in a fog.

"Hillo!" he said, on seeing Dennis; "vat you oop dis early for? Don't
vant anoder dinner yet, I hope?"

"I will take that in good time," said Dennis; "and shall want a bigger
one than that which so astonished you at first."

"Oh, my eyes!" said the German; "den I go and tell de cook to pegin to
get him right avay."

Laughing good-naturedly, Dennis went to the door and looked out. On
sidewalk and street the snow lay six or eight inches deep, untrodden,
white and spotless, even in the heart of the great city. "How different
this snow will look by night," thought he; "how soiled and black!
Perhaps very many come to this city in the morning of life like this
snow, pure and unstained; but after being here awhile they become like
this snow when it has been tossed about and trodden under every careless
foot. God grant that, however poor and unsuccessful I may remain, such
pollution may never be my fate."

But feeling that he had no time for moralizing if he would secure bread
for the coming day of rest, he turned and said to the factotum of the
bar-room, "How much will you give to have the snow cleared off the
sidewalk in front of your house?"

"Zwei shillen."

"Then I will earn my breakfast before I eat it, if you will lend me
a shovel."

"I dought you vas a shentlemans," said the German, staring at him.

"So I am; just the shentlemans that will clean off your sidewalk for
zwei shillen, if you will let him."

"You vant to do him for exercise?"

"No; for zwei shillings."

"I dought you vas a shentlemans," said the man, still staring in stolid
wonder at Dennis.

"Didn't you ever know of a gentleman who came from Germany to this
country and was glad to do anything for an honest living?"

"Often and often I haf. You see von here," said the man, with a grin.
"Well, I am just that kind of a gentleman. Now if you will lend me a
shovel I will clean off your sidewalk for two shillings, and be a great
deal more thankful than if you had given me the money for nothing."
"Little fear of dot," said the man, with another grin. "Vel, you are
der queerest Yankee in Chicago, you are; I dink you are 'bout haf
Sherman. I tells you vat--here, vat's your name?--if you glean off dot
sidewalk goot, you shall haf preakfast and dinner, much as you eat,
vidout von shent to pay. I don't care if der cook is cooking all day.
I like your--vat you call him?--shpunk."

"It's a bargain," said Dennis; "and if I can make a few more like it
to-day, I shall be rich."

"You may vel say dot. I vill go into der market and see if dere's
enough for me to keep my bart of der bargain goot."

For half an hour Dennis worked away lustily, and then called his
task-master and said, "Will you accept the job?"

Surveying with surprise the large space cleared, and looking in vain
for reason to find fault, he said: "I say nothin' agin him. I hope you
vill eat your dinner as quick. Now come in to your preakfast."

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