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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.

“Gone, mum.”

“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 character.”

“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, sadly.

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 equality.”

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 an infidel.”

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 and now.”

He bared his head and looked upward.

“O God,” he said, solemnly, “if this is contrary to Thy will–Thy will be done.”

He paused a moment reverently, and then turned on his heel and strode resolutely homeward.

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 enjoyment.

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 occasion.”

“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 itself.”

“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 tasted breakfast.

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 prosperity.

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 very minute.”

“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 talk.

“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 well.

“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 symptoms.

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 vaccinated?”

“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 as not.”

“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 severe cold.”

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.”

“What then?”

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 me–“

“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 that day.

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 wrong.

“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 horizon.

“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 me forward.”

Dennis was young.



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 of all!”

“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 deserves promotion.”

“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 when well.”

“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 the wall.

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 in nothingness.

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 with me.”

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 life.”

“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 everything.”

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 obliged.”

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 manner.”

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 no
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 Ernst appeared.

“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 embarrassed.

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 both aroused.

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 not to.”

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, doubtingly.

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 other people?”

“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.



After Ernst’s departure Christine reclined wearily in her chair, quite exhausted by even the slight effort she had made, but her thoughts were busy.

“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 at once.

“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 afternoon.”

“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. Help yourself.”

“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 day.”

“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 jealousies.”

“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 dem apart.”

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 pictures.

“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 grew dark.

“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 me.”

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 to give.”

“I would not presume to give my opinion among so many more competent judges.”

“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 Brown’s entertainment.

“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 enlighten us.”

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 picture.”



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. Cornell.

“The artist is an amateur, and not willing to come before the public at present,” said Mr. Ludolph, so decidedly that no further questions were asked.

“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 your porter.”

“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 themselves out.

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 asked.

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 my faith.”

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 vanished.

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 Ludolph?”

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 again.”

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.”



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.