Part 4 out of 9
At first the knowledge stunned and bewildered him, and his mind was
a confused blur; then as she appeared again, smiling upon and in the
embrace of another man, a sharp sword seemed to pierce his heart.
Dennis was no faint shadow of a man who had frittered away in numberless
flirtations what little heart he originally had. He belonged to the
male species, with something of the pristine vigor of the first man,
who said of the one woman of all the world, "This is now bone of my
bones, and flesh of my flesh"; and one whom he had first seen but a
few short months since now seemed to belong to him by the highest and
divinest right. But could he ever claim his own?
In his morbid, wearied state, there seemed a "great gulf fixed" between
them. For a moment he fairly felt faint and sick, as if he had received
a wound. He was startled by hearing Miss Winthrop say at his side:
"Mr. Fleet, you will not leave yet. I have many friends wishing an
introduction to you. What is the matter? You look as if you were ill."
At her voice he flushed painfully. He was so vividly conscious of his
love himself that he felt that every one else must be able to see it,
and darkness and solitude now seemed a refuge. Recovering himself by
a great effort he said, "Pardon me, I do--I am not well--nothing is
the matter--a little rest and I shall be myself again."
"No wonder. You have been taxed every way beyond mortal endurance, and
I think that it is a shame the way you have been treated. Pray do not
judge Chicago society altogether by what you have seen here. Let me
get you some refreshment, and then I will acquaint you with some people
who can recognize a gentleman when they meet him."
"No, Miss Winthrop," said Dennis, courteously but firmly; "you are not
in your own home, and by staying I should not be accepting your
hospitality. I appreciate your kindness deeply, and thank your friends
who have expressed a willingness to make my acquaintance. It would not
be right to stay longer in this house than is necessary. I do not feel
resentful. I have no room in my memory for Miss Brown and her actions,
but at the same time self-respect requires that I go at once;" and he
took his hat.
"I am not surprised that you feel as you do. But give me the pleasure
of welcoming you at my own home as soon as possible," she said, and
gave her hand to him in parting.
Dennis took it respectfully and bowed low, saying, "I shall not
willingly deny myself so great a pleasure." and was gone.
Christine came in a few moments later, and found only servants clearing
the room for dancing.
"Where is Mr. Fleet?" she asked.
"Yes," said Miss Winthrop, coming in at the same time; "he has gone
now in very truth; and I don't think the power exists that could lead
him to darken these doors again. I doubt if I ever come myself. I never
saw a clearer instance of--of--well--_shoddy_."
"It seems to me that you Christians are as proud as any of us."
"Isn't there a difference between pride and self-respect? I am satisfied
that if Miss Brown were in trouble, or poor, Mr. Fleet would be the
first to help her. Oh, Christine, we have treated him shamefully!"
"You seem to take a wonderful interest in this unknown knight in rusty
armor." (Dennis's dress was decidedly threadbare.)
"I do," said the impulsive girl, frankly, "because he is wonderfully
interesting. What man of all the large audience present to-night could
have acted the part he did? I am satisfied that that man is by birth
and education a gentleman. Are you ready, with your aristocratic
notions, to recognize chiefly Miss Brown's title to position? What
could her coat-of-arms be but the dollar symbol and the beer-barrel?"
"Come, remember she is our hostess."
"You are right; I should not speak so here; but my indignation gets
the better of me."
"Would you invite him to your house?"
"Certainly. I have asked him; and what is more, he has promised to
come. Supposing that he is poor, are not many of your noblemen as poor
as poverty? My parlors shall be haunted only by men of ability and
"You are not going to shut out this little heathen," said Christine,
putting her arm about her friend.
"Never!" said Miss Winthrop, returning the embrace with double warmth.
Then she added, sadly: "You are not an unbeliever from conviction and
knowledge, Christine, but from training and association. While I admire
and honor your father as a splendid and gifted man, I regret his and
your scepticism more deeply than you can ever know."
"Well, Susie," said Christine, with a smile, "if they shut out such
as you from your Paradise, I do not wish to go there."
"If, with my clear knowledge of the conditions of entrance, I _shut
myself out_, I shall have no right to complain," said Miss Winthrop,
But the absence of two such belles could not long remain unnoted; and,
having been discovered, they were pounced upon by half a dozen young
gentlemen, clamorous for the honor of their hands in the "German."
In spite of herself, Christine was vexed and annoyed. Dennis had seemed,
in his obscurity, a nice little bit of personal property, that she
could use and order about as she pleased. He had been so subservient
and eager to do her will, that she had never thought of him otherwise
than as her "humble servant." But now her own hand had suddenly given
him the role of a fine gentleman. Christine was too logical to think
of continuing to order about a man who could sing Mendelssohn's music
as Dennis had done.
She congratulated herself that the arrangement of the store was nearly
completed, and that only one show-room was unfinished.
"I suppose he will be very dignified when we meet again," she thought
to herself. "I should not be at all surprised if my impulsive little
friend Susie loses her heart to him. Well, I suppose she can to any
one she chooses. As for me, rich or poor, stupid or gifted, the men
of this land are all alike;" and with a half-sigh she plunged resolutely
into the gayeties of the evening, as if to escape from herself.
Dennis passed out of the heavy, massive entrance to the wealthy brewer's
mansion with a sense of relief as if escaping from prison. The duskiness
and solitude of the street seemed a grateful refuge, and the night
wind was to his flushed face like a cool hand laid on a feverish brow.
He was indeed glad to be alone, for his was one of those deep, earnest
natures that cannot rush to the world in garrulous confidence when
disturbed and perplexed. There are many sincere but shallow people who
must tell of and talk away every passing emotion. Not of the abundance
of their hearts, for abundance there is not, but of the uppermost thing
in their hearts their mouths must speak, even though the subjects be
of the delicate nature that would naturally be hidden. Such mental
constitutions are at least healthful. Concealed trouble never preys
upon them like the canker in the bud. Everything comes to the surface
and is thrown off.
But at first Dennis scarcely dared to recognize the truth himself, and
the thought of telling even his mother was repugnant. For half an hour
he walked the streets in a sort of stupor. He was conscious only of
a heavy, aching heart and a wearied, confused brain. All the time,
however, he knew an event had occurred that must for good or evil
affect his entire existence; but he shrank with nervous dread from
grappling with the problem. As the cold air refreshed and revived him,
his strong, practical mind took up the question almost without volition,
and by reason of his morbid, wearied state, only the dark and
discouraging side was presented. The awakening to his love was a very
different thing to Dennis, and to the majority in this troubled world,
from the blissful consciousness of Adam when for the first time he saw
the fair being whom he might woo at his leisure, amid embowering roses,
without fear or thought of a rival.
To Dennis the fact of his love, so far from promising to be the source
of delightful romance and enchantment, clearly showed itself to be the
hardest and most practical question of a life full of such questions.
In his strong and growing excitement he spoke to himself as to a second
person: "Oh, I see it all now. Poor, blind fool that I was, to think
that by coveting and securing every possible moment in her presence
I was only learning to love art! As I saw her to-night, so radiant and
beautiful, and yet in the embrace of another man, and that man evidently
an ardent admirer, what was art to me? As well might a starving man
seek to satisfy himself by wandering through an old Greek temple as
for me to turn to art alone. One crumb of warm, manifested love from
her would be worth more than all the cold, abstract beauty in the
universe. And yet what chance have I? What can I hope for more than
a passing thought and a little kindly, condescending interest? Clerk
and man-of-all-work in a store, poor and heavily burdened, the idea
of my loving one of the most wealthy, admired, and aristocratic ladies
in Chicago! It is all very well in story-books for peasants to fall
in love with princesses, but in practical Chicago the fact of my
attachment to Miss Ludolph would be regarded as one of the richest
jokes of the season, and by Mr. Ludolph as such a proof of rusticity
and folly as would at once secure my return to pastoral life."
Then hope whispered, "But you can achieve position and wealth as others
have done, and then can speak your mind from the standpoint of
But Dennis was in a mood to see only the hopeless side that night, and
exclaimed almost aloud: "Nonsense! Can it be even imagined that she,
besieged by the most gifted and rich of the city, will wait for a poor
unknown admirer? Mr. Mellen, I understand, approaches her from every
vantage-ground save that of a noble character; but in the fashionable
world how little thought is given to this draw back!" and in his
perturbation he strode rapidly and aimlessly on, finding some relief
in mere physical activity.
Suddenly his hasty steps ceased, and even in the dusk of the street
his face gleamed out distinctly, so great was its pallor. Like a ray
of light, a passage from the Word of God revealed to him his situation
in a new aspect. It seemed to him almost that some one had whispered
the words in his ear, so distinctly did they present themselves--"Be
ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers."
Slowly and painfully he said to himself, as if recognizing the most
hopeless barrier that had yet been dwelt upon, "Christine Ludolph is
Not only the voice of reason, and of the practical world, but also the
voice of God seemed to forbid his love; and the conviction that he
must give it all up became a clear as it was painful. The poor fellow
leaned his head against the shaggy bark of an elm in a shadowy square
which the street-lamps could but faintly penetrate. The night wind
swayed the budding branches of the great tree, and they sighed over
him as if in sympathy.
The struggle within his soul was indeed bitter, for, though thus far
he had spoken hopelessly, he had not been altogether hopeless; but now
that conscience raised its impassable wall high as heaven, which he
must not break through, his pain was so great as to almost unman him,
and such tears as only men can weep fell from his eyes. In anguish he
exclaimed, "That which might have been the chief blessing of life has
become my greatest misfortune."
Above him the gale caused two fraying limbs to appear to moan in echo
of the suffering beneath.
"This then must be the end of my prayers in her behalf--my ardent
hope and purpose to lead her to the truth--she to walk through honored,
sunny paths to everlasting shame and night, and I through dark and
painful ways to light and peace, if in this bitter test I remain
faithful. Surely there _is_ much to try one's faith. And yet it must be
so as far as human foresight can judge."
Then a great pity for her swelled his heart, for he felt that her case
was the saddest after all, and his tears flowed faster than ever.
Human voices now startled him--some late revellers passing homeward.
The tears and emotion, of which we never think of being ashamed when
alone with Nature and its Author, he dreaded to have seen by his
fellows, and hastily wiping his eyes, he slunk into the deeper shadow
of the tree, and they passed on. Then, an old trait asserting itself,
he condemned his own weakness. Stepping from the sheltering trunk
against which he was leaning, he stood strong and erect.
The winds were hushed as if expectant in the branches above.
"Dennis Fleet," he said, "you must put your foot on this folly here
He bared his head and looked upward.
"O God," he said, solemnly, "if this is contrary to Thy will--Thy will
He paused a moment reverently, and then turned on his heel and strode
A gust of wind crashed the branches overhead together like the clash
of cymbals in victory.
The early spring dawn was tingeing the eastern horizon before the gay
revel ceased and the mansion of the rich brewer was darkened. All the
long night, light, airy music had caused late passers-by to pause a
moment to listen, and to pity or envy the throng within, as disposition
dictated. Mr. Brown was a man who prided himself on lavish and rather
coarse hospitality. A table groaning under costly dishes and every
variety of liquor was the crowning feature, the blissful climax of all
his entertainments; and society from its highest circles furnished an
abundance of anxious candidates for his suppers, who ate and criticised,
drank to and disparaged, their plebeian host.
Mrs. Brown was heavy in every sense of the word, and with her huge
person draped with acres of silk, and festooned with miles of
point-lace, she waddled about and smiled and nodded good-naturedly at
everybody and everything.
It was just the place for a fashionable revel, where the gross, repulsive
features of coarse excess are veiled and masked somewhat by
the glamour of outward courtesy and good-breeding.
At first Christine entered into the dance with great zest and a decided
sense of relief. She was disappointed and out of sorts with herself.
Again she had failed in the object of her intense ambition, and though
conscious that, through the excitement of the occasion, she had sung
better than ever before, yet she plainly saw in the different results
of her singing and that of Dennis Fleet that there was a depth in the
human heart which she could not reach. She could secure only admiration,
superficial applause. The sphere of the true artist who can touch and
sway the popular heart seemed beyond her ability. By voice or pencil
she had never yet attained it. She had too much mind to mistake the
character of the admiration she excited, and was far too ambitious to
be satisfied with the mere praise bestowed on a highly accomplished
girl. She aspired, determined, to be among the first, and to be a
second-rate imitator in the world of art was to her the agony of a
disappointed life. And yet to imitate with accuracy and skill, not
with sympathy, was the only power she had as yet developed. She saw
the limitations of her success more clearly than did any one else, and
chafed bitterly at the invisible bounds she could not pass.
The excitement of the dance enabled her to banish thoughts that were
both painful and humiliating. Moreover, to a nature so active and full
of physical vigor, the swift, grace motion was a source of keen
But when after supper many of the ladies were silly, and the gentlemen
were either stupid or excited, according to the action of the "invisible
spirit of wine" upon their several constitutions--when after many
glasses of champagne Mr. Mellen began to effervesce in frothy
sentimentality and a style of love-making simply nauseating to one of
Christine's nature--she looked around for her father in order to escape
from the scenes that were becoming revolting.
Though of earth only in all the sources of her life and hopes, she was
not earthy. If her spirit could not soar and sing in the sky, it also
could not grovel in the mire of gross materiality. Some little time,
therefore, before the company broke up, on the plea of not feeling
well she lured her father away from his wine and cigars and a knot of
gentlemen who were beginning to talk a little incoherently. Making
their adieux amid many protestations against their early departure,
they drove homeward.
"How did you enjoy yourself?" asked her father.
"Very much in the early part of the evening, not at all in the latter
part. To sum up, I am disgusted with Mr. Mellen and these Browns in
general, and myself in particular."
"What is the matter with Mr. Mellen? I understand that the intriguing
mammas consider him the largest game in the city."
"When hunting degenerates into the chase and capture of insects, you
may style him game. Between his champagne and silly love-making, he
was as bad as a dose of ipecac."
Christine spoke freely to her father of her admirers, usually making
them the themes of satire and jest.
"And what is the trouble with our entertainers?"
"I am sorry to speak so of any one whose hospitality I have accepted,
but unless it is your wish I hope never to accept it again. They all
smell of their beer. Everything is so coarse, lavish, and ostentatious.
They tell you as through a brazen trumpet on every side, 'We are rich.'"
"They give magnificent suppers," said Mr. Ludolph, in apology.
"More correctly, the French cook they employ gives them. I do not
object to the nicest of suppers, but prefer that the Browns be not on
the _carte de menu_. From the moment our artistic programme ended,
and the entertainment fell into their hands, it began to degenerate
into an orgy. Nothing but the instinctive restraints of good-breeding
prevents such occasions from ending in a drunken revel."
"You are severe. Mr. Brown's social effort is not a bad type of the
entertainments that prevail in fashionable life."
"Well, it may be true, but they never seemed to me so lacking in good
taste and refinement before. Wait till we dispense choice viands and
wines to choicer spirits in our own land, and I will guarantee a
marvellously wide difference. Then the eye, the ear, the mind, shall
be feasted, as well as the lower sense."
"Well, I do not see why you should be disgusted with yourself. I am
sure that you covered yourself with glory, and were the belle of the
"That is no great honor, considering the occasion. Father, strange as
it may seem to you, I envied your man-of-all-work to-night. Did you
not mark the effect of his singing?"
"Yes, and felt it in a way that I cannot explain to myself. His tones
seemed to thrill, and stir my very heart. I have not been so affected
by music for years. At first I thought it was surprise at hearing him
sing at all, but I soon found that it was something in the music
"And that something I fear I can never grasp--never attain."
"Why, my dear, they applauded you to the echo."
"I would rather see one moist eye as the tribute to my singing than
to be deafened by noisy applause. I fear I shall never reach high art.
Men's hearts sleep when I do my best."
"I think you are slightly mistaken there, judging from your train of
admirers," said Mr. Ludolph, turning off a disagreeable subject with
a jest. The shrewd man of the world guessed the secret of her failure.
She herself must feel, before she could touch feeling. But he had
systematically sought to chill and benumb her nature, meaning it to
awake at just the time, and under just the circumstances, that should
accord with his controlling ambition. Then reverting to Dennis, he
continued: "It won't answer for Fleet to sweep the store any longer
after the part he played to-night. Indeed, I doubt if he would be
willing to. Not only he, but the world will know that he is capable
of better things. What has occurred will awaken inquiry, and may soon
secure him good business offers. I do not intend to part readily with
so capable a young fellow. He does well whatever is required, and
therefore I shall promote him as fast as is prudent. I think I can
make him of great use to me."
"That is another thing that provokes me," said Christine. "Only
yesterday morning he seemed such a useful, humble creature, and last
evening through my own folly he developed into a fine gentleman; and
I shall have to say, 'By your leave, sir'; 'Will you please do
this'?--If I dare ask anything at all."
"I am not so sure of that," said her father. "My impression is that
Fleet has too much good sense to put on airs in the store. But I will
give him more congenial work; and as one of the young gentleman clerks,
we can ask him up now and then to sing with us. I should much enjoy
trying some of our German music with him."
The next morning Christine did not appear at the late breakfast at
which her father with contracted brow and capricious appetite sat
alone. Among the other unexpected results of the preceding day she had
taken a very severe cold, and this, with the reaction from fatigue and
excitement, caused her to feel so seriously ill that she found it
impossible to rise. Her father looked at her, and was alarmed; for her
cheeks were flushed with fever, her head was aching sadly, and she
appeared as if threatened with one of those dangerous diseases whose
earlier symptoms are so obscure and yet so much alike. She tried to
smile, but her lip quivered, and she turned her face to the wall.
The philosophy of Mr. Ludolph and his daughter was evidently adapted
to fair weather and smooth sailing. Sickness, disease, and the possible
results, were things that both dreaded more than they ever confessed
to each other. It was most natural that they should, for only in health
or life could they enjoy or hope for anything. By their own belief
their horizon was narrowed down to time and earth, and they could look
for nothing beyond. In Mr. Ludolph's imperious, resolute nature,
sickness always awakened anger as well as anxiety. It seemed like an
enemy threatening his dearest hopes and most cherished ambition,
therefore the heavy frown upon his brow as he pushed away the scarcely
To Christine the thought of death was simply horrible, and with the
whole strength of her will she ever sought to banish it. To her it
meant corruption, dust, nothingness. With a few drawbacks she had
enjoyed life abundantly, and she clung to it with the tenacity of one
who believed it was all. With the exception of some slight passing
indisposition, both she and her father had been seldom ill; and for
a number of years now they had voyaged on over smooth, sunny seas of
Christine's sudden prostration on the morning following the
entertainment was a painful surprise to both.
"I will have Dr. Arten call at once," he said, at parting, "and will
come up from the store early in the day to see you;" and Christine was
left alone with her French maid.
Her mind was too clouded and disturbed by fever to think coherently,
and yet a vague sense of danger--trouble--oppressed her, and while she
lay in a half-unconscious state between sleeping and waking, a thousand
fantastic visions presented themselves. But in them all the fiery Cross
and Dennis Fleet took some part. At times the Cross seemed to blaze
and threaten to burn her to a cinder, while he stood by with stern,
accusing face. The light from the Cross made him luminous also, and
the glare was so terrible that she would start up with a cry of fear.
Again, they would both recede till in the far distance they shone like
a faint star, and then the black darkness that gathered round her was
more dreadful than the light, and with her eyes closed she would reach
out her hot hands for the light to return. Once or twice it shone upon
her with soft, mellow light, and Dennis stood pointing to it, pleading
so earnestly and tenderly that tears gathered in her eyes. Then all
was again blurred and distorted.
Within an hour after her father left, she found Dr. Arten feeling her
pulse and examining her symptoms. With a great effort she roused
herself, and, looking at the doctor with an eager inquiring face, said;
"Doctor, tell me the truth. What is the matter?"
He tried to smile and evade her question, but she would not let him.
"Well, really, Miss Ludolph," he said, "we can hardly tell yet what
is the matter. You have evidently caught a very severe cold, and I
hope that is all. When I come this evening I may be able to speak more
definitely. In the meantime I will give you something to soothe and
reduce your fever!"
The French maid followed the doctor out, leaving the door ajar in her
haste, and in an audible whisper said: "I say, docteur, is it not ze
smallpox? Zere is so much around. Tell me true, for I must leave zis
"Hush, you fool!" said the doctor, and they passed out of hearing.
A sickening dread made Christine's heart almost stand still. When the
woman returned her mistress watched her most narrowly and asked, "What
did the doctor say to you?"
The maid replied in French that he had said she must be still and not
"But you asked him if I had the smallpox. What did he say?"
"Ah, mademoiselle, you make one grand meestake. I ask for a small box
to keep your medicine in, zat it make no smell."
From the woman's lie, and from the fact that she was redolent with
camphor, and that she kept as far away as possible, near the windows,
Christine gathered a most painful confirmation of her fears. For a
time she lay almost paralyzed by dread.
Then as the medicine relieved her of fever and unclouded her mind,
thought and conscience awoke with terrible and resistless power. As
never before she realized what cold, dark depths were just beneath her
gay, pleasure-loving life, and how suddenly skies radiant with the
richer promise of the future could become black and threatening.
Never had earthly life seemed so attractive, never had her own prospects
seemed so brilliant, and her hopes of fame, wealth, and happiness in
her future German villa more dazzling, than now when they stood out
against the dark background of her fears.
"If, instead of going forward to all this delight, I become an object
of terror and loathing even before I die, and something that must be
hidden out of sight as soon as possible after, what conceivable fate
could be worse? That such a thing is possible proves this to be a
dreadful and defective world, with all its sources of pleasure. Surely
if there were a God he would banish such horrible evils.
"There is no God--there can't be any--at least none such as the Bible
reveals. How often I have said this to myself! how often my father has
said it to me! and yet the thought of Him torments me often even when
"Why does this thought come so persistently now? I settled it long
ago, under father's proof, that I did not believe in Him or the
superstitions connected with His name. Why doesn't the question stay
settled? Other superstitions do not trouble me. Why should that Cross
continually haunt me? Why should the _man_ who died thereon have the
power to be continually speaking to me through His words that I have
read? I believe in Socrates as much as I do in Him, and yet I recall the
Greek sage's words with an effort, and cannot escape from the
Nazarene's. All is mystery and chaos and danger. We human creatures
are like frothy bubbles that glisten and dance for a moment on a swift
black tide that seems flowing forever, and yet nowhere."
Then her thoughts recurred to Dennis.
"That young Fleet seemed to believe implicitly in what he said
yesterday, and he lives up to what he believes. I would give the world
for his delusion, were it only for its comforting and sustaining power
for this life. If he were very ill, he would be imagining himself on
the threshold of some sort of heaven or paradise, and would be calm
and perhaps even happy, while I am so supremely wretched I find that
I have nothing--absolutely nothing to sustain me--not even the memory
of good deeds. I have not even lived the unselfish life that Socrates
recommends, much less the holy life of the Bible. I have pleased myself.
Well, believing as I have been taught, that seemed the most sensible
course. Why doesn't it seem so now?"
Thus tossed on a sea of uncertainty and fear, Christine, in darkness
and weakness, grappled with those mighty questions which only He can
put to rest who said, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in
God, believe also in Me."
Dennis walked resolutely home. He felt himself adamant in his stern
resolution. He at least had the deathlike peace that follows decision.
The agony of conflict was over for a time, and, as he thought, forever.
From mere exhaustion he slept heavily, and on the following day with
white face and compressed lips entered on his work. And work it now
became indeed; for the old glamour was all gone, and life looked as
practical and hard as the stones of the street. Even the pictures on
the walls seemed to him but things for sale, representing money values;
and money appeared the beginning, middle, and ending of the world's
creed. Like the unsubstantial mirage had vanished the beautiful, happy
life of the past few weeks. Around him were the rocks and sands of the
desert, through which he must toil with weary, bleeding feet till he
reached the land watered by the river of life. Reason and duty, as he
believed, forbade the existence of this foolish passion, and he must
and would destroy it; but in his anguish he felt as if he had resolved
to torture himself to death.
"And she will never know what I suffer--never know the wealth of heart
I have lavished upon her. I am glad she will not, for the knowledge
of my love would make no more impression on her cold, proud nature
than a drop of warm summer rain falling on the brow of yonder marble
statue of Diana. She would only be amazed at my presumption. She feels
that she shines down on me like the sun, and that I am a poor little
satellite that she could blot out altogether by causing her father to
turn me into the street again, which undoubtedly would be done should
I reveal my feelings."
And he was right.
"Come!" said he to himself, breaking from his painful revery, "no
weakness! You have your way to make in the world, and your work to do.
God will help you, and no creature shall hinder you;" and he plunged
resolutely into his duties.
Mr. Ludolph was late in reaching the store that morning, and Dennis
found himself secretly hoping, in spite of himself, that Christine
would accompany him. His will and heart were now in distinct opposition,
and the latter would not obey orders.
When Mr. Ludolph appeared, it was with a frowning, clouded brow. Without
a word he passed into his private office, but seemed so restless and
troubled in his manner that Dennis felt something was wrong. Why should
he take such an interest in this man? Why should he care? The other
clerks did not: not one save himself had noticed anything different.
Poor Dennis was to learn that he had a disease of many and varied
After something over an hour had passed, Mr. Ludolph started from his
desk, took his hat and cane as with the purpose of going out--a very
unusual thing at that time. But, as he was passing down the store, he
met Dr. Arten opposite Dennis's counter.
"Well?" said Mr. Ludolph, impatiently.
"I will call again this evening," said the doctor, prudently
non-committal. "Your daughter has caught a very severe cold. I hope
it is nothing more than a cold, but so many troublesome diseases
commence with these obscure symptoms that we have to wait till further
developments reveal the true nature of the case."
"You doctors make no headway in banishing disease from the world,"
snarled Mr. Ludolph. "There is smallpox around, is there not?"
"Yes, I am sorry to say there is a great deal of it, but if you remember
the history of that one disease, I think you will admit your remark
to be unfair."
"I beg your pardon, doctor, but I am anxious, and all out of sorts,
as I ever am in sickness" (when affecting himself--he might justly
have added). "It seems such a senseless, useless evil in the world.
The idea of you Christians believing a benevolent Being rules the
world, and that He permits smallpox. Can it be possible that my daughter
has contracted this loathsome horror?" "Well, it is possible, but I
hope not at all probable. We doctors are compelled to look at the
practical rather than the theological side of the question. It is
possible for any one to have this disease. Has your daughter been
"No!" growled Mr. Ludolph. "I don't believe in vaccination. It is as
apt to vitiate the system as to protect it."
"I am sorry for that," said the doctor, looking grave.
Keen Mr. Ludolph saw and read his physician's expression accurately.
Seizing his hand he said, eagerly: "Pardon me, doctor; you can
understand a father's feelings. Watch this case night and day. Spare
no pains, and be assured I will regret no expense"; and he hastened
away to his daughter's bedside.
No prisoner at the bar ever listened with more interest than Dennis.
If it had been his own case they were discussing it would not have
touched him half so nearly.
But a moment before, Christine in her pride, wealth, and beauty seemed
destined to go through life as in a triumphant march. Now he saw her
to be a weak human creature, threatened as sorely as the poorest and
humblest. Her glorious beauty, even her life, might pass away in Le
Grand Hotel as surely as in a tenement house. The very thought thrilled
him with fear. Then a great pity rushed into his soul like a tide,
sweeping everything before it. His stern resolution to stifle and
trample upon his love melted like a snow-wreath, and every interest
of life centred in the darkened room where Christine tossed and moaned
in the deeper darkness of uncertainty and doubt. The longing to go to
her with comfort and help was so intense that it required the utmost
effort of reason and will to prevent such rash action. He trembled at
himself--at the strength of his feelings--and saw that though he might
control outward action his heart had gone from him beyond remedy, and
that his love, so long unrecognized, was now like the principal source
of the Jordan, that springs from the earth a full-grown river, and
that he could not help it.
Mr. Ludolph found little comfort at his daughter's bedside. Sending
her maid away, who was glad to go, Christine told what she had
overheard. Smallpox seemed in the mind of every one, but this was not
strange since it was so prevalent in the city.
"Oh, father, what shall I do--what shall I do, if this should be the
case? Janette will leave me, and there will be no one to take care of
me. I know I shall die, and I might as well as to be made hideous by
this horrible disease. No, I would rather live, on any terms; for to
die is to be nothing. Oh, father, are you sure the Bible is all false?
There is so much in it to comfort the sick. If I could only believe
in such a life hereafter as Susie Winthrop does, I would as soon die
"No," said Mr. Ludolph, firmly, "your only chance is to get well. There
is no use in deceiving ourselves. I have secured the services of the
most skilful of physicians, and will see that you have every attention.
So try to be as calm as possible, and co-operate with every effort to
baffle and banish disease. After all it may be nothing more than a
So then in very truth this world was all. In bitterness and dread she
realized how slight was her hold upon it. To her healthful body pain
was a rare experience, but now her head and every bone ached, and the
slightest movement caused increased suffering. But her mental trouble
was by far the greatest. Often she murmured to herself, "Oh, that I
had been trained to the grossest superstitions, so that I might not
look down into this black bottomless gulf that unbelief opens at my
feet!" and she tossed and moaned most piteously.
Mr. Ludolph returned to the store in an exceedingly worried and anxious
state. As he entered he caught Dennis's eager, questioning gaze, and
a thought struck him: "Perhaps this young fellow, through his mission
school, may know of some good, trustworthy woman who would act as
nurse"; and coming to Dennis he explained the situation, and then asked
if he knew of any one, or could find a suitable person.
Dennis listened eagerly, thought a moment, and then said, with a flushed
face and in a low tone: "I think my mother would be willing to come.
She has had the smallpox and would not be afraid."
"But would she be willing?"
"I think I could persuade her," said Dennis.
Mr. Ludolph thought a moment, then said: "I think she would be the one
of all others, for she must be very much of a lady, and I would not
like to put my daughter in charge of a common, coarse woman. You may
rest assured that I would reward her liberally."
"She would not come for money, sir."
Dennis flushed how more deeply than before. He had been speaking for
his mother from his own point of view, and now he hardly knew what to
say, for he was not good at evasion. But he told the truth, if not all
the truth. "We feel very grateful to you for the means of support, and
a chance in life when the world was very dark. You have since promoted
"Nonsense!" said Mr. Ludolph, somewhat touched, though; "you have
earned every dollar you have received, and your coming has been of
advantage to me also. But if your mother will meet this need, should
it occur, neither of you will have cause to regret it"; and he passed
on to his office, but soon after went away again and did not return
To Dennis the hours dragged on like years, full of suspense and mental
tumult. At times he would bow his head behind his counter, and pray
in tearful fervor for the object of his constant thought. The day was
rainy, and the store empty of customers, for which he was most thankful,
as he would have made the poorest of salesmen. At last the hour for
closing arrived, and he was left to himself. In the solitude of his
own room he once more looked the situation fairly in the face. With
his head bowed in his hands he reflected: "Last night I _thought_
to tear this love from my heart, but to-night I find that this would
be to tear out my heart itself. I cannot do it. It is my strongest
conviction that I can no more stop loving her than I can stop living.
Unconsciously this love has grown until now it is my master, and it
is folly to make any more resolves, only to be as weak as water when
I least expect it. What shall I do?"
Motionless, unconscious of the lapse of time, he remained hour after
hour absorbed in painful thought. Circumstances, reason, the Bible,
all seemed to frown upon his love; but, though it appeared to be
hopeless, his whole nature revolted against the idea of its being
"It cannot be wrong to love, purely and unselfishly," he muttered.
"Such love as mine seems to carry its own conviction of right with
it--an inner consciousness that seems so strong and certain as to be
beyond argument--beyond everything; and yet if God's Word is against
it I must be wrong, and my heart is misleading me."
Again in unbroken silence an hour passed away. Then the thought struck
him: "It is not contrary to God's action! He so loved the
world--unbelievers and all--as to give His best and dearest! Can it
be wrong to be God-like?"
"It is not wise, it is not safe," prudence whispered, "to give a
worldly, unbelieving spirit the power to influence you that she will
have who is first in your heart. What true congeniality can there be?
What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? or what part
hath he that believeth with an infidel? As the most intimate friend
and companion in life, you should seek one who truly can be _one_
with you in all things, and most assuredly so in this vital respect."
"Ah," thought Dennis, "that would have been very good advice to give
awhile ago. If from the first I could have understood my feelings and
danger, I might have steeled my heart against the influences that have
brought me to this. But the mischief is done. The words that now, in
spite of myself, continually run in my mind, are, 'What God hath joined
together let not man put asunder.' It seems as if some resistless power
had joined my soul to hers, and I find no strength within myself to
break the bond. I am not usually irresolute; I think I have principle;
and yet I feel that I should not dare make the most solemn vow against
this love. I should be all the more weak because conscience does not
condemn me. It seems to have a light that reason and knowledge know
not of. And yet I wish I could be more sure. I wish I could say to
myself, I may be loving hopelessly, but not sinfully. I would take the
risk. Indeed I cannot help taking it. Oh, that I could find light,
clear and unmistakable!"
He rose, turned up his light, and opened the Pauline precepts. These
words struck his eyes, "Art thou bound unto a wife? Seek not to be
loosed." Then, above, the words, "How knowest thou, O man, whether
thou shalt save thy wife, even though she be an unbeliever?"
"Am I not bound--bound by that which is God's link in the chain? It
does not seem as if the legal contract could change or strengthen my
feelings materially, and while honoring the inviolable rite of marriage,
which is God's law and society's safety, I know that nothing can more
surely bind me to her, so that the spirit, the vital part of the
passage, applies to me. Then if through this love I could save her--if
by prayer and effort I could bring her feet into the paths of life--
I should feel repaid for all that I could possibly suffer. She may slight
my human love with its human consummation, but God will not let a life
of prayer and true love be wasted, and she may learn here, or know
hereafter, that though the world laid many rich gifts at her feet I
brought the best of all."
He looked out, and saw that the early spring dawn was tingeing the
"A good omen," he said aloud. "Perhaps the night of this trouble is
past, and the dawn is coming. I am convinced that it is not wrong; and
I am resolved to make the almost desperate attempt. A mysterious hope,
coming from I know not where or what, seems to beckon and encourage
Dennis was young.
MISS LUDOLPH COMMITS A THEFT
Mr. Ludolph on his return found Christine suffering from a nervous
horror of the smallpox. From the indiscreet and callous maid, intent
on her own safety, and preparing to palliate the cowardice of her
flight should her fears prove true, Christine learned that the city
was full of this loathsome disease, and her feelings were harrowed by
exaggerated instances of its virulent and contagious character.
"But you will surely stay with me," pleaded Christine.
"Mademoiselle could not expect zat."
"Heartless!" muttered Christine. Then she said: "Won't you go for Susie
Winthrop? Oh, how I would like to see her now!"
"She vould not come; no von vould come who knew."
Christine wrung her hands and cried, "Oh, I shall die alone and deserted
"No, you shall not," said her father, entering at that moment; "so do
not give way, my dear.--Leave the room, stupid!" (to the maid, who
again gladly escaped, resolving not to re-enter till the case was
decided). "I have secured the best of physicians, and the best of
nurses, and by to-night or to-morrow morning we shall know about what
to expect. I cannot help hoping still that it is only a severe cold."
And he told her of Dennis's offer of his mother's services.
"I am sure I should like her, for somehow I picture to myself a kind,
motherly person. What useful creatures those Fleets are! They are on
hand in emergencies when one so needs help. It seemed very nice to
have young Fleet my humble servant; but really, father, he
"He shall have it, and I doubt not will be just as ready to do your
bidding as ever. It is only commonplace people whose heads are turned
by a little prosperity. Fleet knew he was a gentleman before he came
to the store."
"Father, if I should have the smallpox and live, would my beaut--would
I become a fright?"
"Not necessarily. Let us hope for the best. Make the most of the world,
and never endure evils till they come, are my maxims. Half of suffering
is anticipation of possible or probable evil."
"Father," said Christine, abruptly, "I believe you are right, you
_must_ be right, and have given me the best comfort and hope that
truthfully can be given. But this is a strange, cruel world. We seem
the sport of circumstances, the victims of hard, remorseless laws. One
bad person can frightfully injure another person" (a spasm distorted
her father's face). "What accidents may occur! Worst of all are those
horrible, subtle, contagious diseases which, none can see or
guard against! Then to suffer, die, corrupt--faugh! To what a disgusting
end, to what a lame and impotent conclusion, does the noble creature,
man, come! My whole nature revolts at it. For instance, here am I a
young girl, capable of the highest enjoyment, with everything to live
for, and lured forward by the highest hopes and expectations; and yet,
in spite of all the safeguards you can place around me, my path is in
the midst of dangers, and now perhaps I am to be rendered hideous, if
not killed outright, by a disease the very thought of which fills me
with loathing. What I fear _has_ happened, and may happen again. And
what compensation is there for it all?--what can enable one to bear it
all? Oh, that I could believe in a God and a future happier life!"
"And what kind of a God would He be who, having the power to prevent,
permits, or orders, as the Bible teaches, all these evils? I am a man
of the world, and pretend to nothing saint-like or chivalric, but do
you think I am capable of going to Mr. Winthrop and striking down his
daughter Susie with a loathsome disease? And yet if a minister or
priest should come here he would begin to talk about the mysterious
providence, and submission to God's will. If I am to have a God, I
want one at least better than myself."
"You _must_ be right," said Christine, with a weary moan. "There is no
God, and if there were, in view of what you say, I could only hate and
fear Him. How chaotic the world is! But it is hard." After a moment she
added, shudderingly: "_It is horrible_. I did not think of these things
"Get well and forget them again, my dear. It is the best you can do."
"If I get well," said Christine, almost fiercely, "I shall get the
most I can out of life, cost what it may;" and she turned her face to
A logical result of his teaching, but for some reason it awakened in
Mr. Ludolph a vague foreboding.
The hours dragged on, and late in the afternoon the hard-driven
physician appeared, examined his patient, and seemed relieved.
"If there is no change for the worse," he said, cheerily, "if no new
symptoms develop by to-morrow, I can pronounce this merely a severe
cold, caused by the state of the system and too sudden check of
perspiration;" and the doctor gave and opiate and bowed himself out.
Long and heavily Christine slept. The night that Dennis filled with
agonizing prayer and thought was to her a blank. While he in his strong
Christian love brought heaven nearer to her, while he resolved on that
which would give her a chance for life, happy life, here and hereafter,
she was utterly unconscious. No vision or presentiment of good, like
a struggling ray of light, found access to her darkened spirit. So
heavy was the stupor induced by the opiate, that her sleep seemed like
the blank she so feared, when her brilliant, ambitious life should end
So I suppose God's love meditates good, and resolves on life and joy
for us, while our hearts are sleeping, dead to Him, benumbed and
paralyzed so that only His love can awaken them. Like a vague yet
hope-inspiring dream, this truth often enters the minds of those who
are wrapped in the spiritual lethargy that may end in death. God wakes,
watches, loves, and purposes good for them. When we are most
unconscious, perhaps another effect for our salvation has been resolved
upon in the councils of heaven.
But ambition more than love, earthly hopes rather than heavenly, kept
Mr. Ludolph an anxious watcher at Christine's side that night. A smile
of satisfaction illumined his somewhat haggard face as he saw the fever
pass away and the dew of natural moisture come out on Christine's brow,
but there was no thankful glance upward. Immunity from loathsome disease
was due only to chance and the physician's skill, by his creed.
The sun was shining brightly when Christine awoke and by a faint call
startled her father from a doze in the great armchair.
"How do you feel, my dear?" he asked.
She languidly rubbed her heavy eyes, and said she thought she was
better--she felt no pain. The opiate had not yet lost its effect. But
soon she greatly revived, and when the doctor came he found her
decidedly better, and concluded that she was merely suffering from a
severe cold, and would soon regain her usual health.
Father and daughter were greatly relieved, and their spirits rose.
"I really feel as if I ought to thank somebody," said Christine. "I
am not going to thank the doctor, for I know what a bill is coming,
so I will thank you. It was very kind of you to sit up the long night
Even Mr. Ludolph had to remember that he had in his anxiety thought
as much of himself as of her.
"Another lease of life," said Christine, dreamily looking into the
future; "and, as I said last night, I mean to make the most of it."
"I can best guide you in doing that," said her father, looking into
his daughter's face with keen scrutiny.
"I believe you, and intend to give you the chance. When can we leave
this detested land, this city of shops and speculators? To think that
I, Christine Ludolph, am sick, idle, and perhaps have endangered all
by reason of foolish exposure in a brewer's tawdry, money-splashed
house! Come, father when is the next scene in the brief drama to open?
I am impatient to go _home_ to our beloved Germany and enter on real
"Well, my dear, if all goes well, we can enter on our true career a
year from next fall--a short year and a half. Do not blame the delay,
for it will enable us to live in Germany in almost royal style. I never
was making money so rapidly as now. I have invested in that which
cannot depreciate, and thus far has advanced beyond belief--buildings
in the business part of the city. Rents are paying me from twenty to
a hundred per cent. At the same time I could sell out in a month. So
you see you have only to co-operate with me--to preserve health and
strength--to enjoy all that money can insure; and money can buy almost
Christine's eyes sparkled as the future opened before her, and she
said, with emphasis, "If _I_ could preserve health and strength, I would
live a thousand years."
"You can do much toward it. Every chance is in favor of prudence and
wise action;" and, much relieved, her father went to the store.
Business had accumulated, and in complete absorption he gave himself
to it. With an anxiety beyond expression, Dennis, flushed and trembling,
ventured to approach. Merely glancing to see who it was, Mr. Ludolph,
with his head bent over his writing, said, "Miss Ludolph is better--
no fear of smallpox, I think--you need not write to your mother--greatly
It was well for Dennis that his employer did not look up. The open
face of Mr. Ludolph's clerk expressed more than friendly interest in
his daughter's health. The young man went to his tasks with a mountain
of fear lifted from his heart.
But the thought of the beloved one lying alone and sick at the hotel
seemed very pathetic to him. Love filled his heart with more sympathy
for Christine upon her luxurious couch, in rapid convalescence, than
for all the hopeless suffering of Chicago. What could he do for her?
She seemed so far off, so high and distant, that he could not reach
her. If he ventured to send anything, prudence whispered that she would
regard it as an impertinence. But love can climb every steep place,
and prudence is not its grand-vizier.
Going by a fruit-store in the afternoon he saw some fine strawberries,
the first in from the South. He bought a basket, decorated it with
German ivy obtained at a flower-stand, and spirited it upstairs to his
room as if it were the most dangerous of contraband. In a disguised
hand he wrote on a card, "For Miss Ludolph." Calling Ernst, who had
little to do at that hour of the day, he said: "Ernst, my boy, take
this parcel to Le Grand Hotel, and say it is for Miss Christine Ludolph.
Tell them to send it right up, but on no account--remember, on no
account--tell any one who sent it. Carry it carefully in just this
Ernst was soon at his destination, eager to do anything for his friend.
After all, the day had proved a long one for Christine. Unaccustomed
to the restraints of sickness, she found the enforced inaction very
wearisome. Mind and body both seemed weak. The sources of chief
enjoyment when well seemed powerless to contribute much now. In silken
robe she reclined in an arm-chair, or languidly sauntered about the
room. She took up a book only to throw it down again. Her pencil fared
better. Ennui gave to her fair young face the expression of one who
had tried the world for a century and found it wanting. She was leaning
her elbow on the window-sill, gazing vacantly into the street, when
"Janette," she said, suddenly, "do you see that boy? He is employed
at the store. Go bring him up here; I want him;" and with more animation
than she had shown that day she got out materials for a sketch.
"I must get that boy's face," she said, "before good living destroys
all his artistic merit."
Ernst was unwilling to come, but the maid almost dragged him up.
"What have you got there?" asked Miss Ludolph, with a reassuring smile.
"Something for Miss Ludolph," stammered the boy, looking very much
Christine carefully opened the parcel and then exclaimed with delight:
"Strawberries, as I live! the very ambrosia of the gods. Papa sent
them, did he not?"
"No," said the boy, hanging his head.
"Who did, then?" said Christine, looking at him keenly.
He shuffled uneasily, but made no answer.
"Come, I insist on knowing," she cried, her wilful spirit and curiosity
The boy was pale and frightened, and she was mentally taking notes of
his face. But he said, doggedly, "I can't tell."
"But I say you must. Don't you know that I am Miss Ludolph?"
"I don't care what you do to me," said the little fellow, beginning
to cry, "I won't tell."
"Why won't you tell, my boy?" said Christine, cunningly, in a wheedling
tone of voice.
Before he knew it, the frightened, bewildered boy fell into the trap,
and he sobbed, "Because Mr. Fleet told me not to, and I wouldn't disobey
him to save my life."
A look of surprise, and then a broad smile, stole over the young girl's
face--at the gift, the messenger, and at him who sent it. It was indeed
a fresh and unexpected little episode, breaking the monotony of the
day--as fresh and pleasing to her as one of the luscious berries so
grateful to her parched mouth.
"You need not tell me," she said, soothingly, "if Mr. Fleet told you
The boy saw the smile, and in a moment realized that he had been tricked
out of the forbidden knowledge.
His little face glowed with honest indignation, and looking straight
at Miss Ludolph, with his great eyes flashing through the tears, he
said, "You stole that from me."
Even she colored a little and bit her lip under the merited charge.
But all this made him all the more interesting as an art study, and
she was now sketching away rapidly. She coolly replied, however, "You
don't know the world very well yet, my little man."
The boy said nothing, but stood regarding her with his unnaturally
large eyes filled with anger, reproach, and wonder.
"Oh," thought Christine, "if I could only paint that expression!"
"You seem a great friend of Mr. Fleet," she said, studying and sketching
him as if he had been an inanimate object.
The boy made no answer.
"Perhaps you do not know that I am a friend--friendly," she added,
correcting herself, "to Mr. Fleet also."
"Mr. Fleet never likes to have his friends do wrong," said the boy,
Again she colored a little, for Ernst's pure and reproachful face made
her feel that she had done a mean thing, but she laughed said: "You
see I am not in his mission class, and have never had the instruction
that you have. But, after all, why do you think Mr. Fleet better than
"By what he does."
"That is a fair test; what has he done?"
"He saved us all from starving, and worse than starving."
Then with feminine tact she drew from him his story, and it was told
with deep feeling and the natural pathos of childhood, and his gratitude
caused him to dwell with a simple eloquence on the part Dennis had
taken, while his rich and loved German accent made it all the more
interesting to Christine. She dropped her pencil, and, when he finished,
her eyes, that were seldom moistened by the dew of sympathy, were wet.
"Good-by, my child," she said, in a voice so kind and sweet that it
seemed as if another person had spoken. "You shall come again, and
then I shall finish my sketch. When I get well I shall go to see your
father's picture. Do not be afraid; neither you nor Mr. Fleet will
fare the worse for the strawberries, and you may tell him that they
have done me much good."
When Dennis, wondering at Ernst's long absence, heard from him his
story, his mind was in a strange tumult, and yet the result of his
effort seemed favorable. But he learned more fully than ever that
Christine was not perfect, and that her faultless beauty and taste
were but the fair mask of a deformed spirit. But he dwelt in hope on
the feeling she had shown at Ernst's story.
"She seemed to have two hearts," said the boy--"a good, kind one way
inside the cold, hard outside one."
"That is about the truth," thought Dennis. "Good-night, Ernst. I don't
blame you, my boy, for you did the best you could."
He had done better than Dennis knew.
A MISERABLE TRIUMPH
After Ernst's departure Christine reclined wearily in her chair, quite
exhausted by even the slight effort she had made, but her thoughts
"What a unique character that Dennis Fleet is! And yet, in view of
what he believes and professes, he is both natural and consistent. He
seems humble only in station, and that is not his fault. Everything
he does seems marked by unusual good taste and intelligence. His earlier
position and treatment in the store must have been very galling. I can
hardly believe that the gentleman I sang Mendelssohn's music with the
other evening was the same that I laughed at as he blacked old
Schwartz's boots. And yet he saw me laugh, and blacked the boots,
conscious that he was a gentleman. It must have been very hard. And
yet I would rather do such work myself than live on charity, and so
undoubtedly he felt. It is very fortunate that we nearly finished the
rearrangement of the pictures before all this occurred, for I could
not order him about now as I have done. The fact is, I like servants,
not dignified helpers; and knowing what I do, even if he would permit
it, I could not speak to him as formerly. But he did show wonderful
taste and skill in his help. See now that little ivy-twined basket of
luscious fruit: it looks just like him. If he were only rich and titled,
what a genuine nobleman he would make! He is among the few men who do
not weary or disgust me; so many are coarse and commonplace. I cannot
understand it, but I, who fear and care for no one except my father,
almost feared him when under Miss Brown's insolence he looked as few
men can. What a jumble the world is! He sweeps the store, while
insignificant atoms of men are conspicuous in their littleness by
reason of high position.
"It was very kind of him to send me this tasteful gift after the
miserable experience I caused him the other day. I suppose he does it
on the principle of returning good for evil, as his creed teaches.
Moreover, he seems grateful that father gave him employment, and a
chance to earn twice what he receives. He certainly must be promoted
"Perhaps," thought she, smiling to herself, while a faint tinge of
color came into her cheeks--"perhaps, like so many others, he may be
inclined to be a little sentimental also, though he will never be as
silly as some of them.
"What a noble part he acted toward those Bruders! The heart of a pagan
could not fail to be touched by that poor little fellow's story, and
it has made me believe that I have more heart than I supposed.
Sometimes, especially when I hear or read of some such noble deed, I
catch glimpses of a life infinitely better than the one I know, like
the sun shining through a rift in the clouds; then they shut down
again, and father's practical wisdom seems the best there is.
"At any rate," she said aloud, getting up and walking the floor with
something of the old restless energy, "I intend to live while I live,
and crowd into life's brief day all that I can. I thank Mr. Fleet for
a few sensations in what would otherwise have been a monotonous, dreary
"What, strawberries!" said Mr. Ludolph, coming in. "Where did you get
these? They are the first I have seen."
"Your man-of-all-work sent them to me," said Christine, daintily dipping
one after another in sugar.
"Well, that is a good joke."
"A most excellent one, which I am enjoying, and in which you may share.
"And what has led him to this extravagant favor?"
"Consistency, I suppose. As a good Christian he would return good for
evil; and I certainly caused him many and varied tortures the other
"No, he is grateful; from first to last the callow youth has been
overwhelmed with gratitude that I have permitted him to be worth to
me double what I paid him."
"Well, you have decided to promote him, have you not?"
"Yes, he shall have charge of the hanging of new pictures, and the
general arrangement of the store, so as to keep up your tasteful and
artistic methods. Moreover, he shall meet customers at the door, and
direct them just where to find what they want. He is fine-looking,
polite, speaks English perfectly, and thus takes well. I can gradually
work him in as general salesman, without creating troublesome
"What will old Schwartz say?"
"Schwartz is good at finance and figures. I can trust him, and he must
relieve me more in this respect. He of course knows that this is the
more important work, and will feel honored. As to the others, if they
do not like it I can find plenty who will. Fleet's good fortune will
take him quite by surprise. He was performing his old humble duties
as briskly and contentedly as usual to-day."
"I am surprised at that, for I should have supposed that he would have
been on his dignity somewhat, indicating by manner at least that the
time for a change had come. He can indicate a great deal by manner,
as you might have learned had you seen him under Miss Brown's insults
and my lack of courtesy. Well, it does me good to find one American
whose head is not turned by a little success. You are right though,
I think, father; that young fellow can be very useful to you, and a
decided help in hastening the time when we can leave this shop life,
and enter our true sphere. I am more impatient to go than words can
express, for life seems so brief and uncertain that we must grasp
things as soon as possible or we lose them forever. Heavens! what a
scare I have had! Everything seemed slipping from under my feet
yesterday, and I sinking I know not where. Surely by concentrating
every energy we can be ready to go by a year from next fall."
"Yes, that is my plan now."
On the following day Dennis was again promoted and his pay increased.
A man more of the Pat Murphy type was found to perform the coarse work
of the store. As Mr. Ludolph had said, Dennis could hardly realize his
good fortune. He felt like one lifted out of a narrow valley to a
breezy hillside. He was now given a vantage-point from which it seemed
that he could climb rapidly, and his heart was light as he thought of
what he would be able to do for his mother and sisters. Hope grew
sanguine as he saw how he would now have the means to pursue his beloved
art-studies to far greater advantage. But, above all, his promotion
brought him nearer the object of his all-absorbing passion. What he
feared would take him one or two years to accomplish he had gained in
a day. Hope whispered that perhaps it was through her influence in
some degree that he had obtained this advance. Could she have seen and
read his ardent glances? Lovers' hopes will grow like Jonah's gourd,
and die down as quickly. Words could not express his longing to see
her again, but for several days she did not come to the store. She
merely sent him word to complete the unfinished show-room in accordance
with the plan on which they had been working, leaving space on the
sides of the room opposite each other for two large pictures. Though
much disappointed, Dennis had carefully carried out her bidding.
Every evening the moment his duties permitted he sought his instructor,
Mr. Bruder, and, with an eagerness that his friends could not
understand, sought to educate hand and eye. Dennis judged rightly that
mere business success would never open to him a way to the heart of
such a girl as Christine. His only hope of winning even her attention
was to excel in the world of art, where she hoped to shine as a queen.
Then to his untiring industry and eager attention he added real genius
for his tasks, and it was astonishing what progress he made. When at
the close of his daily lesson Dennis had taken his departure, Mr.
Bruder would shake his head, and cast up his eyes in wonder, and
exclaim: "Dot youth vill astonish de vorld yet. Never in all Germany
haf I seen such a scholar."
Often till after midnight he would study in the solitude of his own
little room. And now, relieved of duties in the early morning, he
arranged an old easel in the attic of the store, a sort of general
lumber-room, yet with a good light for his purpose. Here he secured
two good hours daily, and often more, for painting; and his hand grew
skilful, and his eye true, under his earnest efforts. But his intense
application caused his body to grow thin and his face pale.
Christine had rapidly recovered from her illness, her vital and elastic
constitution rebounding back into health and vigor like a bow rarely
bent. She, too, was working scarcely less eagerly than Dennis, and
preparing for a triumph which she hoped would be the earnest of the
fame she meant to achieve. She no longer came to the store with her
father in the morning, but spent the best and early hours of the day
in painting, riding out along the lake and in the park in the afternoon.
Occasionally she came to the store in the after part of the day, glanced
sharply round to see that her tasteful arrangement was kept up, and
ever seemed satisfied.
Dennis was usually busy with customers at that time, and, though
conscious of her presence the moment she entered, found no excuse or
encouragement to approach. The best he ever received from her was a
slight smile and a cold bow of recognition, and in her haste and
self-absorption she did not always give these. She evidently
had something on her mind by which it was completely occupied.
"She does not even think of me," sighed Dennis; "she evidently imagines
that there is an immeasurable distance between us yet."
He was right; she did not think of him, and scarcely thought of any
one else, so absorbed was she in the hope of a great success that now
was almost sure. She had sent her thanks for the berries by her father,
which so frightened Dennis that he had ventured on no more such favors.
She had interceded for his promotion. Surely she had paid her debt,
and was at quits. So she would have been if he had only given her a
basket of strawberries, but having given his heart, and lifelong love,
he could scarcely be expected to be satisfied. But he vowed after each
blank day all the more resolutely that he would win her attention,
secure recognition of his equality, and so be in position for laying
siege to her heart.
But a deadly blight suddenly came over all his hopes.
One bright morning late in May two large flat boxes were brought to
the store. Dennis was busy with customers, and Mr. Schwartz said, in
his blunt, decided way, that he would see to the hanging of those
pictures. They were carried to the show-room in the rear of the store,
and Dennis at once concluded that they were something very fine,
designed to fill the spaces he had left, and was most anxious to see
them. Before he was disengaged they were lifted from their casing and
were standing side by side on the floor, opposite the entrance, the
warm rich morning light falling upon them with fine effect. Mr. Schwartz
seemed unusually excited and perplexed for him, and stared first at
one picture, then at the other, in a manner indicating that not their
beauty, but some other cause disturbed him.
Dennis had scarcely had time to exclaim at the exquisite loveliness
and finish of the two paintings before Mr. Ludolph entered, accompanied
by Mr. Cornell, a well-known artist, Mr. French, proprietor of another
large picture-store, and several gentlemen of taste, but of lesser
note, whom Dennis had learned to know by sight as habitues of the
"Temple of Art." He also saw that Christine was advancing up the store
with a lady and gentleman. Feeling that his presence might be regarded
as obtrusive, he passed out, and was about to go away, when he heard
his name called.
Looking up he saw Miss Winthrop holding out her hand, and in a moment
more she presented him to her father, who greeted him cordially.
Christine also gave him a brief smile, and said: "You need not go away.
Come and see the pictures."
Quick-eyed Dennis observed that she was filled with suppressed
excitement. Her cheeks, usually but slightly tinged with pink, now by
turns glowed and were pale. Miss Winthrop seemed to share her
nervousness, though what so excited them he could not divine. The
paintings, beautiful as they were, could scarcely be the adequate
cause; and yet every eye was fastened on them.
One seemed the exact counterpart of the other in frame and finish as
well as subject. A little in the background, upon a crag overhanging
the Rhine, was a castle, massive, frowning, and built more for security
and defence than comfort. The surrounding landscape was bold, wild,
and even gloomy. But in contrast with these rugged and sterner features,
was a scene of exquisite softness and tenderness. Beneath the shadow
of some great trees not far from the castle gate, a young crusader was
taking leave of his fair-haired bride. Her pale, tearful face, wherein
love and grief blent indescribably, would move the most callous heart,
while the struggle between emotion and the manly pride that would not
permit him to give way, in the young chieftain's features, was scarcely
less touching. Beautiful as were the accessories of the pictures, their
main point was to portray the natural, tender feeling induced by a
parting that might be forever. At first they all gazed quietly and
almost reverently at the vivid scene of human love and sorrow, save
old Schwartz, who fidgeted about as Dennis had never seen him before.
Clearly something was wrong.
"Mr. Schwartz," said Mr. Ludolph, "you may hang the original picture
on the side as we enter, and the copy opposite. We would like to see
them up, and in a better light."
"Dat's it," snorted Mr. Schwartz; "I'd like to know vich is vich."
"You do not mean to say that you cannot tell them apart? The original
hung here some time, and you saw it every day."
"I do mean to say him," said Mr. Schwartz, evidently much vexed with
himself. "I couldn't have believed dat any von in de vorld could so
impose on me. But de two pictures are just de same to a pin scratch
in frame, subject, and treatment, and to save my life I cannot tell
Christine's face fairly glowed with triumph, and her eyes were all
aflame as she glanced at her friend. Miss Winthrop came and took her
cold, quivering hands into her own warm palms, but was scarcely less
excited. Dennis saw not this side scene, so intent was he on the
"Do you mean to say," said Mr. Cornell, stepping forward, "that one
of these paintings is a copy made here in Chicago, and that Mr. Schwartz
cannot tell it from the original?"
"He says he cannot," said Mr. Ludolph.
"And I'd like to see the von who can," said old Schwartz, gruffly.
"Will you please point out the original," said one of the gentlemen,
"that we may learn to distinguish them? For my part they seem like the
twins whose mother knew them apart by pink and white ribbons, and when
the ribbons got mixed she could not tell which was which."
Again Christine's eyes glowed with triumph.
"Well, really, gentlemen," said Mr. Ludolph, "I would rather you would
discover the copy yourselves. Mr. Cornell, Mr. French, and some others,
I think, saw the original several times."
"Look at Mr. Fleet," whispered Miss Winthrop to Christine.
She looked, and her attention was riveted to him. Step by step, he had
drawn nearer, and his eyes were eagerly glancing from one picture to
the other as if following up a clew. Instinctively she felt that he
would solve the question, and her little hands clenched, and her brow
"Really," said Mr. Cornell, "I did not know that we had an artist in
Chicago who could copy the work of one of the best European painters
so that there need be a moment's hesitancy in detecting differences,
but it seems I am mistaken. I am almost as puzzled as Mr. Schwartz."
"The frames are exactly alike," said Mr. French.
"There is a difference between the two pictures," said Mr. Cornell,
slowly. "I can feel it rather than see it. They seem alike, line for
line and feature for feature, in every part; and just where the
difference lies and in what it consists I cannot tell for the life of
With the manner of one who had settled a difficult problem, Dennis
gave a sigh of relief so audible that several glanced at him.
"Perhaps Mr. Fleet from his superior knowledge and long experience can
settle this question," said Christine, sarcastically.
All eyes were turned toward him. He flushed painfully, but said nothing.
"Speak up," said Mr. Ludolph, good-naturedly, "if you have any opinion
"I would not presume to give my opinion among so many more competent
"Come, Mr. Fleet," said Christine, with a covert taunt in her tone,
"that is a cheap way of making a reputation. I fear the impression
will be given that you have no opinion."
Dennis was now very pale, as he ever was under great excitement. The
old look came again that the young ladies remembered seeing at Miss
"Come, speak up if you can," said Mr. Ludolph shortly.
"Your porter, Mr. Ludolph?" said Mr. Cornell, remembering Dennis only
in that capacity. "Perhaps he has some private marks by which he can
Dennis now acted no longer as porter or clerk, but as a man among men.
Stepping forward and looking Mr. Cornell full in the face he said: "I
can prove to you, sir, that your insinuation is false by simply stating
that I never saw those pictures before. The original had been removed
from the store before I came. I have had therefore no opportunity of
knowing the copy from the original. But the pictures are different,
and I can tell precisely wherein I think the difference lies."
"Tell it then," said several voices. Christine stood a little back and
on one side, so that he could not see her face, or he would have
hesitated long before he spoke. In the firm, decided tones of one
thoroughly aroused and sure of his ground, he proceeded.
"Suppose this the copy," said he, stepping to one of the pictures.
(Christine breathed hard and leaned heavily against her friend.) "I
know of but one in Chicago capable of such exquisite work, and he did
not do it; indeed he could not, though a master in art."
"You refer to Mr. Bruder?" said Mr. Cornell.
Dennis bowed and continued: "It is the work of one in whom the imitative
power is wonderfully developed; but one having never felt--or unable
to feel--the emotions here presented cannot portray them. This picture
is but the beautiful corpse of that one. While line for line, and
feature for feature, and even leaf for leaf on the trees is faithfully
exact, yet the soul, the deep, sorrowful tenderness that you feel in
that picture rather than see, is wanting in this. In that picture you
forget to blame or praise, to criticise at all, so deeply are your
sympathies touched. It seems as if in reality two human hearts were
being torn asunder before you. This you know to be an exquisite picture
only, and can coolly criticise and dwell on every part, and say how
admirably it is done."
And Dennis bowed and retired.
"By Jove, he is right," exclaimed Mr. Cornell; and approving faces and
nodding heads confirmed his judgment. But Dennis enjoyed not his
triumph, for as he turned he met Christine's look of agony and hate,
and like lightning it flashed through his mind, "She painted the
LIFE WITHOUT LOVE
As Dennis realized the truth, and remembered what he had said, his
face was scarcely less full of pain than Christine's. He saw that her
whole soul was bent on an imitation that none could detect, and that
he had foiled her purpose. But Christine's wound was deeper than that.
She had been told again, clearly and correctly, that the sphere of
high, true art was beyond her reach. She felt that the verdict was
true, and her own judgment confirmed every word Dennis uttered. But
she had done her best; therefore her suffering was truly agony--the
pain and despair at failure in the most cherished hope of life. There
seemed a barrier which, from the very limitations of her being, she
could not pass. She did not fail from the lack of taste, culture, or
skill, but in that which was like a sixth sense--something she did not
possess. Lacking the power to touch and move the heart, she knew she
could never be a great artist.
Abruptly and without a word she left the room and store, accompanied
by the Winthrops. Dennis felt as if he could bite his tongue out, and
Christine's face haunted him like a dreadful apparition. Wherever he
turned he saw it so distorted by pain, and almost hate, that it scarcely
seemed the same that had smiled on him as he entered at her invitation.
"Truly God is against all this," groaned he, to himself; "and what I
in my weakness could not do He has accomplished by this unlooked-for
scene. She will now ever regard me with aversion."
Dennis, like many another, thought he saw God's plan clearly from a
mere glimpse of a part of it. He at once reached this miserable
conclusion, and suffered as greatly as if it had been God's will,
instead of his own imagination. To wait and trust is often the latest
lesson we learn in life.
Mr. Ludolph's guests, absorbed in the pictures, at first scarcely
noticed the departure of the others.
Christine, with consummate skill and care, kept her relationship to
the picture unknown to all save the Winthrops, meaning not to
acknowledge it unless she succeeded. But in Dennis's startled and
pained face she saw that he had read her secret, and this fact also
annoyed her much.
"I should like to know the artist who copied this painting," said Mr.
"The artist is an amateur, and not willing to come before the public
at present," said Mr. Ludolph, so decidedly that no further questions
"I am much interested in that young clerk of yours," said Mr. French.
"He seems to understand himself. It is so hard to find a good
discriminating judge of pictures. Do you expect to keep him?"
"Yes, I do," said Mr. Ludolph, with such emphasis that his rival in
trade pressed that point also no further.
"Well, really, Mr. Ludolph," said one of the gentlemen, "you deal in
wonders, mysteries, and all sorts of astonishing things yere. We have
an unknown artist in Chicago deserving an ovation; you have in your
employ a prince of critics, and if I mistake not he is the same who
sang at Brown's some little time ago. Miss Brown told me that he was
"Yes, I took him as a stranger out of work and knew nothing of him.
But he proved to be an educated and accomplished man, who will doubtless
be of great use to me in time. Of course I promoted him when I found
him out." These last remarks were made for Mr. French's benefit rather
than for any one's else. He intended that his rival should knowingly
violate all courtesy if he sought to lure Dennis away. After admiring
the paintings and other things recently received, the gentlemen bowed
On leaving the store Mr. Winthrop--feeling awkward in the presence of
the disappointed girl--had pleaded business, and bidden her adieu with
a warm grasp of the hand and many assurances that she had succeeded
beyond his belief.
"I know you mean kindly in what you say," said Christine, while not
the slightest gleam lighted up her pale, sad face. "Good-by."
She, too, was relieved, and wished to be alone. Miss Winthrop sought
to comfort her friend as they walked homeward.
"Christine, you look really ill. I don't see why you take this matter
so to heart. You have achieved a success that would turn any head but
yours. I could not believe it possible had I not seen it. Your ambition
and ideal are so lofty that you will always make yourself miserable
by aiming at the impossible. As Mr. Fleet said, I do not believe there
is another in the city who could have done so well, and if you can do
that now, what may you not accomplish by a few years more of work?"
"That's the terrible part of it," said Christine, with a long sigh.
"Susie, I have attained my growth. I can never be a real artist and
no one living can ever know the bitterness of my disappointment. I do
not believe in the immortality that you do, and this was my only chance
to live beyond the brief hour of my life. If I could only have won for
myself a place among the great names that the world will ever honor,
I might with more content let the candle of my existence flicker out
when it must. But I have learned to-day what I have often feared--that
Christine Ludolph must soon end in a forgotten handful of dust."
"Oh, Christine, if you could only believe!"
"I cannot. I tried in my last sickness, but vainly. I am more convinced
than ever of the correctness of my father's views."
Miss Winthrop sighed deeply. "Why are you so despondent?" she at last
As if half speaking to herself, Christine repeated the words, "'Painted
by one having never felt, or unable to feel, the emotions presented,
and therefore one who cannot portray them.' That is just the trouble.
I tried to speak in a language I do not know. Susie, I believe I am
about half ice. Sometimes I think I am like Undine, and have no soul.
I know I have no heart, in the sense that you have." "I live a very cold
sort of life," she continued, with a slight shudder. "I seem
surrounded by invisible barriers that I cannot pass. I can see, beyond,
what I want, but cannot reach it. Oh, Susie, if you knew what I suffered
when so ill! Everything seemed slipping from me. And yet why I should
so wish to live I hardly know, when my life is so narrowed down."
"You see the disease, but not the remedy," sighed Susie.
"What is the remedy?"
"_Love_. Love to God, and I may add love for some good man."
Christine stopped a moment and almost stamped her foot impatiently.
"You discourage me more than any one else," she cried. "As to loving
God, how can I love merely a name? and, even if He existed, how could
I love a Being who left His world so full of vile evils? As to human
love, faugh! I have had enough of romantic attachments."
"Do you never intend to marry?"
"Susie, you are the friend of my soul, and I trust you and you only
with our secret. Yes, I expect to marry, but not in this land. You
know that in Germany my father will eventually be a noble, the
representative of one of the most ancient and honorable families. We
shall soon have sufficient wealth to resume our true position there.
A husband will then be found for me. I only stipulate that he shall
be able to give me position among the first, and gratify my bent for
art to the utmost"
"Well, Christine, you are a strange girl, and your dream of the future
is stranger still."
"Sometimes I think that all is a dream, and may end like one. Nothing
seems certain or real, or turns out as one expects. Think of it. A
nobody who swept my father's store the other day has this morning made
such havoc in my dream that I am sick at heart."
"But you cannot blame Mr. Fleet. He did it unconsciously; he was goaded
on to do it. No _man_ could have done otherwise. You surely do not feel
hardly toward him?"
"We do not naturally love the lips and bless the voice that tell us
of an incurable disease. Oh, no," she added, "why should I think of
him at all? He merely happened to point out what I half suspected
myself. And yet the peculiar way this stranger crosses my path from
time to time almost makes me superstitious."
"And you seem to have peculiar power over him. He would have assuredly
left us in the lurch at our tableau party had it not been for you, and
I should not have blamed him. And to-day he seemed troubled and pained
beyond expression when he read from your face, as I imagine, that you
were the author of the picture."
"Yes, I saw that he discovered the fact, and this provokes me also.
If he should speak his thoughts--"
"I do not think he will. I am sure he will not if you caution him."
"That I will not do; and I think on the whole he has too much sense
to speak carelessly of what he imagined he saw in a lady's face. And
now, Susie, good-by. I shall not inflict my miserable self longer upon
you to-day, and I am one who can best cure my wounds in solitude."
"Do you cure them, Christine? or do you only cover them up? If I had
your creed nothing could cure my wounds. Time might deaden the pain,
and I forget them in other things, but I do not see where any cure
could come from. Oh, Christine! you did me good service when in the
deepening twilight of Miss Brown's parlor you showed me my useless,
unbelieving life. But I do believe now. The cross is radiant to me
now--more radiant than the one that so startled us then. Mr. Fleet's
words were true, I know, as I know my own existence. I could die for
Christine frowned and said, almost harshly: "I don't believe in a
religion so full of crosses and death. Why could not the all-powerful
Being you believe in take away the evil from the world?"
"That is just what He came to do. In that very character he was pointed
out by His authorized forerunner: 'Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh
away the sin of the world.'"
"Why does he not do it then?" asked Christine, petulantly. "Centuries
have passed. Patience itself is wearied out. He has had time enough,
if He ever meant or had the power to fulfil the promise. But the world
is as full of evil and suffering as ever. Susie, I would not disturb
your credulous faith, for it seems to do you good; but to me Christ
was a noble but mistaken man, dead and buried centuries ago. He can
do for me no more than Socrates. They vigorously attacked evil in their
day, but evil was too much for them, as it is for us. We must just get
the most we can out of life, and endure what we cannot prevent or
escape. An angel could not convert me to-day--no, not even Susie
Winthrop, and that is saying more still;" and with a hasty kiss she
Susie looked wistfully after her, and then bent her steps homeward
with a pitying face.
Christine at once went to her own private room. Putting on a loose
wrapper she threw herself on a lounge, and buried her face in the
cushions. Her life seemed growing narrow and meagre. Hour after hour
passed, and the late afternoon sun was shining into her room when she
arose from her bitter revery, and summed up all in a few words spoken
aloud, as was her custom when alone.
"Must I, after all, come down to the Epicurean philosophy, 'Let us
eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die'? I seem on a narrow
island, the ocean is all around me, and the tide is rising, _rising_. It
will cover _soon_ my standing-place, and then what becomes of Christine
A look of anguish came into the fair young face, and a slight shudder
passed over her. She glanced around a room furnished in costly elegance.
She saw her lovely person in the mirror opposite, and exclaimed: "What
a mystery it all is! I have so much, and yet so utterly fail of having
that which contents. I have all that wealth can purchase; and multitudes
act as if that were enough. I know I am beautiful. I can see that
yonder for myself, as well as read it in admiring eyes. And yet my
maid is better contented than I, and the boy who blacks the boots
better satisfied with his lot than either of us. I am raised so high
that I can see how much more there is or might be beyond. I feel like
one led into a splendid vestibule, only to find that the palace is
wanting, or that it is a mean hovel. All that I have only mocks me,
and becomes a means of torture. All that I am and have ought to be,
might be, a mere prelude, an earnest and a preparation for something
better beyond. But I am told, and must believe, that this is all, and
I may lose this in a moment and forever. It is as if a noble strain
of music commenced sweetly, and then suddenly broken down into a few
discordant notes and ceased. It is like my picture--all very well; but
that which would speak to and move the heart, year after year, when
the mere beauty ceased to please--that life or something is wanting.
What were his words?--'This picture is but the beautiful corpse of
the other'; and my life is but a cold marble effigy of a true life.
And yet is there any true and better life? If there is nothing better
beyond, I have been carried forward too far. Miss Brown thoroughly
enjoys champagne and flirtations. Susie Winthrop is happy in her
superstition, as any one might be who could believe what she does.
But I have gone past the power of taking up these things, as I have
gone past my childhood's sports. And now what is there for me? My most
dear and cherished hope--a hope that shone above my life like a sun--has
been blown away by the breath of my father's clerk (it required no
greater power to bring me down to my true level), and I hoped to be
a queen among men, high-born, but crowned with the richer coronet of
genius. I, who hoped to win so high a place that men would speak of
me with honest praise, now and in all future time, must be contented
as a mere accomplished woman, deemed worthy perhaps in time to grace
some nobleman's halls who in the nice social scale abroad may stand
a little higher than myself. I meant to shine and dazzle, to stoop to
give in every case; but now I must take what I can get, with a humble
'Thank you';" and she clenched her little powerless hands in impotent
revolt at what seemed very cruel destiny.
She appeared at the dinner-table outwardly calm and quiet. Her father
did not share in her bitter disappointment, and she saw that he did
not, and so felt more alone. He regarded her success as remarkable (as
it truly was), having never believed that she could copy a picture so
exactly as to deceive an ordinarily good observer. When, therefore,
old Schwartz and others were unable to distinguish between the pictures,
he was more than satisfied. He was sorry that Dennis had spoiled the
triumph, but could not blame him. At the same time he recognized in
Fleet another and most decided proof of intelligence on questions of
art, for he knew that his criticism was just. He believed that when
the true knight that his ambition would choose appeared, with golden
spurs and jewelled crest, then her deeper nature would awaken, and she
far surpass all previous effort. Moreover, he did not fully understand
or enter into her lofty ambition. To see her settled in life, titled,
rich, and a recognized leader in the aristocracy of his own land, was
his highest aspiration so far as she was concerned.
He began, therefore, in a strain of compliment to cheer his daughter
and rally her courage; but she shook her head sadly, and said so
decidedly, "Father, let us change the subject," that with some surprise
at her feelings he yielded to her wish, thinking that a little time
and experience would moderate her ideas and banish the pain of
disappointment. It was a quiet meal, both being occupied by their own
thoughts. Soon after he was absorbed for the evening by his cigar and
some business papers.
It was a mild, summer-like night, and a warm, gentle rain was falling.
Even in the midst of a great city the sweet odors of spring found their
way to the private parlor where Christine sat by the window, still
lost in painful thoughts.
"Nature is full of hope, and the promise of coming life. So ought I
to be in this my spring-time. Why am I not? If I am sad and disappointed
in my spring, how dreary will be my autumn, when leaf after leaf of
beauty, health, and strength drops away!"
A muffled figure, seemingly regardless of the rain, passed slowly down
the opposite side of the street. Though the person cast but a single
quick glance toward her window, and though the twilight was deepening,
something in the passer-by suggested Dennis Fleet. For a moment she
wished she could speak to him. She felt very lonely. Solitude had done
her no good. Her troubles only grew darker and more real as she brooded
over them. She instinctively felt that her father could not understand
her, and she had never been able to go to him for sympathy. He was not
the kind of person that any one would seek for such a purpose. Christine
was not inclined to confidence, and there was really no one who knew
her deeper feelings, and who could enter into her real hopes for life.
She was so proud and cold that few ever thought of giving her
confidence, much less of asking hers.
Up to the time of her recent illness she had been strong,
self-confident, almost assured of success. At times she recognized
dimly that something was wrong; but she shut her eyes to the unwelcome
truth, and determined to succeed. But her sickness and fears at that
time, and now a failure that seemed to destroy the ambition of her
life, all united in greatly shaking her self-confidence.
This evening, as never before, she was conscious of weakness and
dependence. With the instinct of one sinking, her spirit longed for
help and support. Then the thought suddenly occurred to her, "Perhaps
this young stranger, who so clearly pointed out the disease, may also
show the way to some remedy."
But the figure had passed on. In a moment mere pride and conventionality
resumed sway, and she smiled bitterly, saying to herself, "What a weak
fool I am to-night! Of all things let me not become a romantic miss
She went to her piano and struck into a brilliant strain. For a few
moments the music was of a forced and defiant character, loud, gay,
but with no real or rollicking mirth in it, and it soon ceased. Then
in a sharp contrast came a sad, weird German ballad, and this was real.
In its pathos her burdened heart found expression, and whoever listened
then would not merely have admired, but would have felt. One song
followed another. All the pent-up feeling of the day seemed to find
natural flow in the plaintive minstrelsy of her own land.
Suddenly she ceased and went to her window. The muffled figure stood
in the shadow of an angle in the attitude of a listener. A moment later
it vanished in the dusk toward the business part of the city. The quick
footsteps died away, and only the patter of the falling rain broke the
silence. Christine felt sure that it was Dennis. At first her feeling
was one of pleasure. His coming and evident interest took somewhat,
she scarcely knew why, from her sense of loneliness. Soon her pride
awoke, however, and she said: "He has no business here to watch and
listen. I will show him that, with all his taste and intelligence, we
have no ground in common on which he can presume."
Her father had also listened to the music, and said to himself:
"Christine is growing a little sentimental. She takes this
disappointment too much to heart. I must touch her pride with the spur
a little, and that will make her ice and steel in a moment. It is no
slight task to keep a girl's heart safe till you want to use it. I will
wait till the practical daylight of to-morrow, and then she shall
look at the world through my eyes again."
DENNIS'S LOVE PUT TO PRACTICAL USE
The day following his unlucky criticism of the pictures was one of
great despondency to Dennis. He had read in Christine's face that he
had wounded her sorely; and, though she knew it to be unintentional,
would it not prejudice her mind against him, and snap the slender
thread by which he hoped to draw across the gulf between them the cord,
and then the cable, that might in time unite their lives?
In the evening his restless, troubled spirit drove him, in spite of
the rain, to seek to be at least nearer to her. He felt sure that in
the dusk and wrapped in his greatcoat he would not be noticed, but was
mistaken, as we have seen. He was rewarded, for he heard her sing as
never before, as he did not believe she could sing. For the first time
her rich, thoroughly trained voice had the sweetness and power of
feeling. To Dennis her song seemed like an appeal, a cry for help, and
his heart responded in the deepest sympathy. As he walked homeward he
said to himself: "She could be a true artist, perhaps a great one, for
she can feel. She has a heart. She has a taste and skill in touch that
few can surpass. I can scarcely believe the beautiful coloring and
faultless lines of that picture are her work." He long for a chance
to speak with her and explain. He felt that he had so much to say, and
in a thousand imaginary ways introduced the subject of her painting.
He hoped he might find her sketching in some of the rooms again. He
thought that he knew her better for having heard her sing, and that
he could speak to her quite frankly.
The next day she came to the store, but passed him without the slightest
notice. He hoped she had not seen him, and, as she passed out, so
placed himself that she must see him, and secured for his pains only
a slight, cold inclination of the head.
"It is as I feared," he said, bitterly. "She detests me for having
spoiled her triumph. She is not just," he added, angrily. "She has no
sense of justice, or she would not blame me. What a mean-spirited
craven I should have been had I shrunk away under her taunts yesterday.
Well, I can be proud too."
When she came in again he did not raise his eyes, and when she passed
out he was in a distant part of the store. Christine saw no tall muffled
figure under her window again, though she had the curiosity to look.
That even this humble admirer, for whom she cared not a jot, should
show such independence rather nettled and annoyed her for a moment.
But she paid no more heed to him than to the other clerks.
But what was the merest jar to Christine's vanity cost Dennis a
desperate struggle. It required no effort on her part to pass him by
without a glance. To him it was torture. In a few days she ceased to
think about him at all, and only remembered him in connection with her
disappointment. But she was restless, could settle down to no work, and
had lost her zest in her old pleasures. She tried to act as usual,
for she saw her father's eye was on her. He had not much indulgence
for any one's weaknesses save his own, and often by a little cold
satire would sting her to the very quick. On the other hand, his
admiration, openly expressed in a certain courtly gallantry, nourished
her pride but not her heart. Though she tried to keep up her usual
routine, her manner was forced before him and languid when alone. But
he said, "All this will pass away like a cold snap in spring, and the
old zest will come again in a few days."
It did, but from a cause which he could not understand, and which his
daughter with consummate skill and care concealed. He thought it was
only the old enthusiasm rallying after a sharp frost of disappointment.
Dennis's pride gave way before her cool and unstudied indifference.