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mother’s side. Mr. and Mrs. Bruder were sobbing at the foot of the bed, and the girls were pleading piteously on either side–“Oh, mother! please don’t go away!”

“Hush!” said Dennis, solemnly. Awed by his manner, all became comparatively silent. He bent over the bed, and said, “Mother, you are leaving us.”

The voice of her beloved son rallied the dying woman’s wandering mind. After a moment she recognized him, smiled faintly, and whispered: “Yes, I think I am–kiss me–good-by. Bring–the children. Jesus–take care–my little–lambs. Good-by–true–honest friends–meet me–heaven. Dennis–these children–your charge–bring them home–to me. Pray for _her_. I don’t know–why–she seems very–near to me. Farewell–my good–true–son–mother’s blessing–God’s blessing–ever rest–on you.”

Her eyes closed, and she fell into a gentle sleep.

“She vake no more in dis vorld,” said Mrs. Bruder, in an awed tone.

Mr. Bruder, unable to control his feelings any longer, hurried from the room. His wife, with streaming eyes, silently dressed the little girls, and took them home with her, crying piteously all the way for mamma.

Pale, tearless, motionless, Dennis sat, hour after hour holding his mother’s hand. He noted that her pulse grew more and more feeble. At last the sun in setting broke through the clouds that had obscured it all day, and filled the room with a sudden glory.

To Dennis’s great surprise, his mother’s eyes opened wide, with the strange, far-off look they ever had when she was picturing to herself the unknown world.

Her lips moved. He bent over her and caught the words: “Hark! hear!–It never was so sweet before. See the angels–thronging toward me–they never came so near before.”

Then a smile of joy and welcome lighted up her wan features, and she whispered, “Oh, Dennis, husband–are we once more united?”

Suddenly there was a look of ecstasy such as her son had never seen on any human face, and she cried almost aloud, “Jesus–my Saviour!” and received, as it were, directly into His arms, she passed from earth.

We touch briefly on the scenes that followed. Dennis took the body of his mother to her old home, and buried it under the wide-spreading elm in the village churchyard, where as a happy child and blooming maiden she had often sat between the services. It was his purpose to remove the remains of his father and place them by her side as soon as he could afford it.

His little sisters accompanied him east, and he found a home for them with a sister of his mother, who was a good, kind, Christian lady. Dennis’s salary was not large, but sufficient to insure that his sisters would be no burden to his aunt, who was in rather straitened circumstances. He also arranged that the small annuity should be paid for their benefit.

It was hard parting from his sisters, whose little hearts seemed breaking at what appeared to them to be a new bereavement.

“How can I leave them!” he exclaimed, with tears falling fast from his eyes.

“They are children,” said his aunt, soothingly, “and will forget their troubles in a few days.”

And so it proved; but Dennis, with a sore heart, and feeling very lonely, returned to Chicago.

When at last Christine got out again, she learned from Ernst at the store that Dennis’s mother had died, and that he had taken the remains and his sisters east. In his sorrow he seemed doubly interesting to her.

“How I wish it were in my power to cheer and comfort him!” she sighed, “and yet I fear my ability to do this is less than that of any one else. In very truth he seems to despise and hate me now. The barriers between us grow stronger and higher every day. How different it all might have been if–. But what is the use of these wretched ‘ifs’? What is the use of resisting this blind, remorseless fate that brings happiness to one and crushes another?”

Wearily and despondingly she rode back to the elegant home in which she found so little enjoyment.

Whom should she met there but Mrs. Von Brakhiem from New York, bound westward with a gay party on a trip to the Rocky Mountains and California? They had stopped to spend a few days in Chicago, and were determined to take Christine on with them. Her father strongly seconded the plan. Though Christine surmised his motive, she did not care to resist. Since she would soon be separated from Dennis forever, the less she saw of him the less would be the pain. Moreover, her sore and heavy heart welcomed any change that would cause forgetfulness; and so it was speedily arranged.

Mrs. Von Brakhiem and her party quite took possession of the Ludolph mansion, and often made it echo with gayety.

On the evening of the day that Dennis buried his mother, Ernst went over at Mr. Ludolph’s request to carry a message. He found the house the scene of a fashionable revel. There were music and dancing in the parlors, and from the dining-room the clink of glasses and loud peals of laughter proved that this was not Christine’s ideal of an entertainment as she had portrayed it to her father on a former occasion. In truth, she had little to do with the affair; it was quite impromptu, and Mr. Ludolph and Mrs. Von Brakhiem were responsible for it.

But Ernst could not know this, and to him it seemed shocking. The simple funeral service taking place on that day in the distant New England village had never been absent from his thoughts a moment. Since early morning he had gone about with his little face composed to funereal gravity.

His simple, warm-hearted parents felt that they could only show proper respect for the occasion by the deepest gloom. Their rooms were arranged in stiff and formal manner, with crape here and there. All unnecessary work ceased, and the children, forbidden to play, were dressed in mourning as far as possible, and made to sit in solemn and dreadful state all day. It would not have surprised Ernst if the whole city had gone into mourning. Therefore the revelry at the Ludolph mansion seemed to him heartless and awful beyond measure, and nearly the first things he told Dennis on the latter’s return was that they had had “a great dancing and drinking party, the night of the funeral, at Mr. Ludolph’s.” Then, trying to find some explanation for what seemed to him such a strange and wicked thing, he suggested, “Perhaps they meant it for a wake.”

Poor little Ernst’s ideas of the world, outside of his home, had been gathered from a very low neighborhood.

He also handed Dennis a letter that Mr. Ludolph requested should be given him on his return. It read as follows:

“CHICAGO, May 6, 1871.

“I have been compelled to supply your place in your absence: therefore your services will be no longer needed at this store. Inclosed you will find a check for the small balance still due you, AUGUST LUDOLPH.”

Dennis’s brow grew very dark, and in bitter soliloquy he said, half aloud, as he strode up and down his little room in great agitation: “And so it all ends! The girl at whose side my mother would have watched in the most dangerous and loathsome of diseases; the woman of ice whom I sought to melt and render human by as warm, true love as ever man lavished on one who rewarded his affection–this beautiful monster will not even visit my mother when dying; she holds a revel on the day of the funeral; and now, through her influence no doubt, I am robbed of the chance of winning honest bread. She cannot even endure the sight of the man who once told her the unvarnished truth. Poor as you deem me, Christine Ludolph, with God’s help not many years shall pass before it will be condescension on my part to recognize you.”

He would not even go to the store again. The Bruders, having heard what had occurred, took Ernst away also; but Dennis soon found him a better situation elsewhere.

The day on which Dennis returned, Christine was speeding in a palace-car toward the Rocky Mountains, outwardly gay, determined to enjoy herself and carry out her reckless purpose to get the most possible out of life, cost what it might.

If she had been a shallow girl, thoughtless and vain, with only mind enough to take in the events of the passing moment, she might have bought many fleeting pleasures with her abundant wealth. But this she was not, with all her faults, and wherever she went, in the midst of gayest scenes, and in the presence of the grandest and most inspiring scenery, thought and memory, like two spectres that no spell could lay, haunted her and robbed her of peace and any approach to happiness. Though possessing the means of gratifying every whim, though restrained by no scruples from doing what she chose, she felt that all around were getting more from life than she.

During her absence she experienced a sudden and severe attack of illness. Her friends were much alarmed about her, and she far more about herself. All her old terror returned. In one respect she was like her mother; she had no physical courage, but shrank with inexpressible dread from danger, pain, and death. Again the blackness of darkness gathered round her, and not one in the gay pleasure party could say a word to comfort her.

She recovered, and soon regained her usual health, but her self-confidence was more thoroughly shaken. She felt like one in a little cockle-shell boat out upon a shoreless ocean. While the treacherous sea remained calm, all might be well, but she knew that a storm would soon arise, and that she must go down, beyond remedy. Again she had been taught how suddenly, how unexpectedly, that storm might rise.

Dennis resolved at once to enter on the career of an artist. He sold to Mr. French, at a moderate price, some paintings and sketches he had made. He rented a small room that became his studio, sleeping-apartment–in brief, his home, and then went to work with all the ordinary incentives to success intensified by his purpose to reach a social height that would compel Christine to look upward if their acquaintance were renewed.

Disappointment in love is one of the severest tests of character in man or woman. Some sink into weak sentimentality, and mope and languish; some become listless, apathetic, and float down the current of existence like driftwood. Men are often harsh and cynical, and rail at the sex to which their mothers and sisters belong. Sometimes a man inflicts a wellnigh fatal wound and leaves his victim to cure it as best she may. From that time forth she may be like the wronged Indian, who slays as many white men as he can. Not a few, on finding they cannot enter the beautiful paradise of happy love, plunge into imbruting vice, and drown not only their disappointment but themselves in dissipation. Their course is like that of some who deem that the best way to cure a wound or end a disease is to kill the patient as soon as possible. If women have true metal in them (and they usually have) they become unselfishly devoted to others, and by gentle, self-denying ways seek to impart to those about them the happiness denied to themselves.

But with all manly young men the instinct of Dennis is perhaps the most common. They will rise, shine, and dazzle the eyes that once looked scornfully or indifferently at them.

As he worked patiently at his noble calling this smaller ambition was gradually lost in the nobler, broader one, to be a true artist and a good man.

During his illness some gentlemen of large wealth and liberality, who wished to stimulate and develop the native artistic talent of their city, offered a prize of two thousand dollars for the finest picture painted during the year, the artist also having the privilege of selling his work.

On his return after his illness Dennis heard of this, and determined to be one of the competitors. He applied to Mr. Cornell, who had the matter in charge, for permission to enter the lists, which that gentleman granted rather doubtfully. He had known Dennis only as a critic, not as an artist. But having gained his point, Dennis went earnestly to work on the emblematic painting he had resolved upon, and with what success the following chapters will show.

His mother’s sickness and death, of course, put a complete shop to his artistic labors for a time, but when entering on his new career, he gave himself wholly to this effort.

The time for exhibition and decision was fixed–Saturday morning October 7, 1871.

CHAPTER XXXIX

SUSIE WINTHROP APPEARS AGAIN

Our story passes rapidly over the scenes and events of the summer and fall of ’71. Another heavy blow fell upon Dennis in the loss of his old friend and instructor, Mr. Bruder.

By prayer and effort, his own and others, he was saved morally and spiritually, but he had been greatly shattered by past excess. He was attacked by typhoid fever, and after a few days’ illness died. Recovery from this disease depends largely upon strength and purity of constitution. But every one of the innumerable glasses of liquor that poor Bruder had swallowed had helped to rob him of these, and so there was no power to resist.

Under her husband’s improved finances, Mrs. Bruder had removed to comfortable lodgings in Harrison Street, and these she determined to keep if possible, dreading for the sake of her children the influences of
a crowded tenement house. Dennis stood by her, a stanch and helpful friend; Ernst was earning a good little sum weekly, and by her needle and washtub the patient woman continued the hard battle of life with fair prospects of success.

Dennis’s studio was on the south side, at the top of a tall building overlooking the lake. Even before the early summer sun rose above the shining waves he was at his easel, and so accomplished what is a fair day’s work before many of his profession had left their beds. Though he worked hard and long, he still worked judiciously. Bent upon accomplishing what was almost impossible within the limited time remaining, he determined that, with all his labor, Dr. Arten should never charge him with suicidal tendencies again. Therefore he trained himself mentally and morally for his struggle as the athlete trains himself physically.

He believed in the truth, too little recognized among brain-workers, that men can develop themselves into splendid mental conditions, wherein they can accomplish almost double their ordinary amount of labor.

The year allotted to the competitors for the prize to be given in October was all too short for such a work as he had attempted, and through his own, his mother’s, and Mr. Bruder’s illness, he had lost a third of the time, but in the careful and skilful manner indicated he was trying to make it up. He had a long conversation with shrewd old Dr. Arten, who began to take a decided interest in him. He also read several books on hygiene. Thus he worked under the guidance of reason, science, Christian principle, instead of mere impulse, as is too often the case with genius.

In the absorption of his task he withdrew utterly from society, and, with the exception of his mission class, Christian worship on the Sabbath, and attendance on a little prayer-meeting in a neglected quarter during the week, he permitted no other demands upon his time and thoughts.

His pictures had sold for sufficient to provide for his sisters and enable him to live, with close economy, till after the prize was given, and then, if he did not gain it (of which he was not at all sure), his painting would sell for enough to meet future needs.

And so we leave him for a time earnestly at work. He was like a ship that had been driven hither and thither, tempest-tossed and in danger. At last, under a clear sky and in smooth water, it finds its true bearings, and steadily pursues its homeward voyage.

The Christine whom he had first learned to love in happy unconsciousness, while they arranged the store together, became a glorified, artistic ideal. The Christine whom he had learned to know as false and heartless was now to him a strange, fascinating, unwomanly creature, beautiful only as the Sirens were beautiful, that he might wreck himself body and soul before her unpitying eyes. He sought to banish all thought of her.

Christine returned about midsummer. She was compelled to note, as she neared her native city, that of all the objects it contained Dennis Fleet was uppermost in her thoughts. She longed to go to the store and see him once more, even though it should be only at a distance, with not even the shadow of recognition between them. She condemned it all as folly, and worse than vain, but that made no difference to her heart, which would have its way.

Almost trembling with excitement she entered the Art Building the next day, and glanced around with a timidity that was in marked contrast to her usual cold and critical regard. But, as the reader knows, Dennis Fleet was not to be seen. From time to time she went again, but neither he nor Ernst appeared. She feared that for some reason he had gone, and determined to learn the truth. Throwing off the strange timidity and restraint that ever embarrassed her where he was concerned, she said to Mr. Schwartz one day: “I don’t like the way that picture is hung. Where is Mr. Fleet? I believe he has charge of that department.”

“Why, bless you! Miss Ludolph,” replied Mr. Schwartz, with a look of surprise, “Mr. Ludolph discharged him over two months ago.”

“Discharged him! what for?”

“For being away too much, I heard,” said old Schwartz, with a shrug indicating that that might be the reason and might not.

Christine came to the store but rarely thereafter, for it had lost its chief element of interest. That evening she said to her father, “You have discharged Mr. Fleet?”

“Yes,” was the brief answer.

“May I ask the reason?”

“He was away too much.”

“That is not the real reason,” she said, turning suddenly upon him. “Father, what is the use of treating me as a child? What is the use of trying to lock things up and keep them from me? I intend to go to Germany with you this fall, and that is sufficient.”

With a courtly smile Mr. Ludolph replied, “And I have lived long enough, my daughter, to know that what people _intend_, and what they _do_ are two very different things.”

She flushed angrily and said: “It was most unjust to discharge him as you did. Do you not remember that he offered his mother’s services as nurse when I was dreading the smallpox?”

“You are astonishingly grateful in this case,” said her father, with a meaning that Christine understood too well; “but, if you will read the records of the Ludolph race, you will find that its representatives have often been compelled to do things somewhat arbitrarily. Since you have been gone, I have received letters announcing the death of my brother and his wife. I am now Baron Ludolph!”

But Christine was too angry and too deeply wounded to note this information, which at one time would have elated her beyond measure. She coldly said, “It is a pity that noblemen are compelled to aught but noble deeds”; and, with this parting arrow, she left him.

Even her father winced, and then with a heavy frown said, “It is well that this Yankee youth has vanished; still, the utmost vigilance is required.”

Again he saw the treacherous maid and promised increased reward if she would be watchful, and inform him of every movement of Christine.

In the unobtrusive ways that her sensitive pride permitted, Christine tried to find out what had become of Dennis, but vainly. She offered her maid a large reward if she would discover him, but she had been promised a larger sum not to find him, and so did not. The impression was given that he had left the city, and Christine feared, with a sickening dread, that she would never see him again. But one evening Mr. Cornell stated a fact in a casual way that startled both Mr. and Miss Ludolph.

He was calling at their house, and they were discussing the coming exhibition of the pictures which would compete for the prize.

“By the way, your former clerk and porter is among the competitors; at least he entered the lists last spring, but I have lost sight of him since. I imagine he has given it up, and betaken himself to tasks more within the range of his ability.”

The eyes of father and daughter met, but she turned to Mr. Cornell, and said, coolly, though with a face somewhat flushed, “And has Chicago so much artistic talent that a real genius has no chance here?”

“I was not aware that Mr. Fleet was a genius,” answered Mr. Cornell.

“I think that he will satisfy you on that point, and that you will hear from him before the exhibition takes place.”

Mr. Ludolph hastily changed the subject, but he had forebodings as to the future.

Christine went to her room, and thought for a long time; suddenly she arose, exclaiming, “He told me his story once on canvas; I will now tell him mine.”

She at once stretched the canvas on a frame for a small picture, and placed it on an easel, that she might commence with dawn of day.

During the following weeks she worked scarcely less earnestly and patiently than Dennis. The door was locked when she painted, and before she left the studio the picture was hidden.

She meant to send it anonymously, so that not even her father should know its authorship. She hoped that Dennis would recognize it.

When she was in the street her eyes began to have an eager, wistful look, as if she was seeking some one. She often went to galleries, and other resorts of artists, but in vain, for she never met him, though at times the distance between them was less than between Evangeline and her lover, when she heard the dip of his oar in her dream. Though she knew that if she met him she would probably give not one encouraging glance, yet the instinct of her heart was just as strong.

Mr. Ludolph told the maid that she must find out what Christine was painting, and she tried to that degree that she wakened suspicion.

On one occasion Christine turned suddenly on her, and said: “What do you mean? If I find you false–if I have even good reason to suspect you–I will turn you into the street, though it be at midnight!”

And the maid learned, as did Mr. Ludolph, that she was not dealing with a child.

During Monday, October 2, Dennis was employed all the long day in giving the finishing touches to his picture. It was not worked up as finely as he could have wished; time did not permit this. But he had brought out his thought vividly, and his drawings were full of power. On the following Saturday the prize would be given.

In the evening he walked out for air and exercise. As he was passing one of the large hotels, he heard his name called. Turning, he saw on the steps, radiant with welcome, his old friend, Susie Winthrop. Her hand was on the arm of a tall gentleman, who seemed to have eyes for her only. But in her old impulsive way she ran down the steps, and gave Dennis a grasp of the hand that did his lonely heart good. Then, leading him to the scholarly-looking gentleman, who was gazing through his glasses in mild surprise, she said: “Professor Leonard, my husband, Mr. Fleet. This is the Dennis Fleet I have told you about so often.”

“Oh-h,” said the professor, in prolonged accents, while a genial light shone through his gold spectacles. “Mr. Fleet, we are old acquaintances, though we have never met before. If I were a jealous man, you are the only one I should fear.”

“And we mean to make you wofully jealous to-night, for I intend to have Mr. Fleet dine with us and spend the evening. Wo, I will take no excuse, no denial. This infatuated man will do whatever I bid him, and he is a sort of Greek athlete. If you do not come right along I shall command him to lay violent hands on you and drag you ignominiously in.”

Dennis was only too glad to accept, but merely wished to make a better toilet.

“I have just come from my studio,” he said.

“And you wish to go and divest yourself of all artistic flavor and become commonplace. Do you imagine I will permit it? No! so march in as my captive. Who ever heard of disputing the will of a bride? This man” (pointing up to the tall professor) “never dreams of it.”

Dennis learned that she was on her wedding trip, and saw that she was happily married, and proud of her professor, as he of her.

With feminine tact she drew his story from him, and yet it was but a meagre, partial story, like the play of Hamlet with Hamlet left out, for he tried to be wholly silent on his love and disappointment. But in no respect did he deceive Mrs. Leonard. Her husband went away for a little time. In his absence she asked, abruptly, “Have you seen Miss Ludolph lately?”

“No!” said Dennis, with a tell-tale flush. Seeing her look of sympathy, and knowing her to be such a true friend, the impulsive young man gave his confidence almost before he knew it. She was just the one to inspire trust, and he was very lonely, having had no one to whom he could speak his deeper feelings since his mother died.

“Miss Ludolph wronged me in a way that a man finds it hard to forget or forgive,” he said, in a low, bitter tone; “but I should have tried to do both had she not treated my mother most inhumanly;” and he told his story over again with Hamlet in.

Mrs. Leonard listened with breathless interest, and then said: “She is a strange girl, and that plan of making you her unconscious model is just like her, though it was both cruel and wicked. And yet Mr. Fleet, with shame for my sex I admit it, how many would have flirted with you to the same degree from mere vanity and love of excitement! I have seen Miss Ludolph, and I cannot understand her. We are no longer the friends we once were, but I cannot think her utterly heartless. She is bent upon becoming a great artist at any cost, and I sometimes think she would sacrifice herself as readily as any one else for this purpose. She looks to me as if she had suffered, and she has lost much of her old haughty, cold manner, save when something calls it out. Even in the drawing-room she was abstracted, as if her thoughts were far away. You are a man of honor, and it is due that you should know the following facts. Indeed I do not think that they are a secret any longer, and at any rate they will soon be known. If Mr. Ludolph were in Germany he would be a noble. It is his intention to go there this fall, and take his wealth and Christine with him, and assert his ancestral titles and position. Christine could not marry in this land without incurring her father’s curse, and I think she has no disposition to do that–her ambition is fully in accord with his.”

“Yes,” said Dennis, bitterly, “and where other women have hearts, she has ambition only.”

The professor returned and the subject was dropped.

Dennis said, on taking his leave: “I did not expect to show any one my picture till it was placed on exhibition with the others, but, if you care to see it, you may to-morrow. Perhaps you can make some suggestions that will help me.”

They eagerly accepted the invitation, and came the following morning. Dennis watched them with much solicitude. When once they understood his thought, their delight and admiration knew no bounds. The professor turned and stared at him as if he were an entirely different person from the unpretending youth who had been introduced on the preceding evening.

“If you do not get the prize,” he said, sententiously, “you have a great deal of artistic talent in Chicago.”

“‘A Daniel come to judgment!'” cried his wife.

CHAPTER XL

SUGGESTIVE PICTURES AND A PRIZE

At last the day of the exhibition dawned. Dennis had sent his picture, directed to Mr. Cornell, with his own name in an envelope nailed to its back. No one was to know who the artists were till after the decision was given. Christine had sent hers also, but no name whatever was in the envelope attached to it.

At an early hour, the doors were thrown open for all who chose to come. The committee of critics had ample time given them for their decision, and at one o’clock this was to be announced.

Although Dennis went rather early, he found that Christine was there before him. She stood with Professor and Mrs. Leonard, Mr. Cornell, and her father, before his picture, fie could only see her side face, and she was glancing from the printed explanation in the catalogue to the painting. Mrs. Leonard was also at her side, seeing to it that no point was unnoted. Christine’s manner betrayed intense interest and excitement, and with cause, for again Dennis had spoken to her deepest soul in the language she best loved and understood.

As before, she saw two emblematic pictures within one frame merely separated by a plain band of gold.

The first presented a chateau of almost palatial proportions, heavy, ornate, but stiff and quite devoid of beauty. It appeared to be the abode of wealth and ancestral greatness.

Everything about the place indicated lavish expenditure. The walks and trees were straight and formal, the flowers that bloomed here and there, large and gaudy. A parrot hung in a gilded cage against a column of the piazza. No wild songsters fluttered in the trees, or were on the wing. Hills shut the place in and gave it a narrow, restricted appearance, and the sky overhead was hard and brazen. On the lawn stood a graceful mountain ash, and beneath it were two figures. The first was that of a man, and evidently the master of the place. His appearance and manner chiefly indicated pride, haughtiness, and also sensuality. He had broken a spray from the ash-tree, and with a condescending air was in the act of handing it to a lady, in the portraiture of whom Dennis had truly displayed great skill. She was very beautiful, and yet there was nothing good or noble in her face. Her proud features showed mingled shame and reluctance to receive the gift in the manner it was bestowed, and yet she was receiving it. The significance of the mountain ash is “Grandeur.” The whole scene was the portrayal, in the beautiful language of art, of a worldly, ambitious marriage, where the man seeks mere beauty, and the woman wealth and position, love having no existence.

It possessed an eloquence that Christine could not resist, and she fairly loathed the alliance she knew her father would expect her to make after their arrival in Germany, though once she had looked forward to it with eagerness as the stepping-stone to her highest ambition.

The second picture was a beautiful contrast. Instead of the brazen glare of the first, the air was full of glimmering lights and shades, and the sky of a deep transparent blue. Far up a mountain side, on an overhanging cliff, grew the same graceful ash-tree, but its branches were entwined with vines of the passion-flower that hung around in slender streamers. On a jutting rock, with precarious footing, stood a young man reaching up to grasp a branch, his glance bold and hopeful, and his whole manner full of daring and power. He had evidently had a hard climb to reach his present position; his hat was gone; his dress was light and simple and adapted to the severest effort.

But the chief figure in this picture also was that of a young girl who stood near, her right hand clasping his left, and steadying and sustaining him in his perilous footing. The wind was in her golden hair, and swept to one side her light, airy costume. Her pure, noble face was lilted up toward _him_, rather than toward the spray he sought to grasp, and an eager, happy light shone from her eyes. She had evidently climbed _with_ him to their present vantage-point, and now her little hand secured and strengthened him as he sought to grasp, for her, success and prosperity joined with unselfish love. The graceful wind-flowers tossed their delicate blossoms around their feet, and above them an eagle wheeled in its majestic flight.

Below and opposite them on a breezy hillside stood a modern villa, as tasteful in its architecture as the former had been stiff and heavy. A fountain played upon the lawn, and behind it a cascade broke into silver spray and mist. High above this beautiful earthly home, in the clear, pure air rose a palace-like structure in shadowy, golden outline, indicating that after the dwelling-place of time came the grander, the perfect mansion above.

Christine looked till her eyes were blinded with tears, and then dropped her veil. In the features of the lady in each case she had not failed to trace a faint likeness, sufficient to make it clear to herself. She said in a low, plaintive tone, with quivering lips, “Mr. Fleet painted that picture.”

“Yes,” said Mrs. Leonard, looking at her with no little wonder and perplexity.

By a great effort Christine recovered herself and said, “You know how deeply fine paintings always affect me.”

Dennis of course knew nothing of Christine’s feelings. He could only see that his picture had produced a profound effect on her, and that she had eyes for nothing else. But he overheard Mr. Cornell say, “It is indeed a remarkable painting”

“Do you know its author?” asked Mr. Ludolph, with a heavy frown.

“No, I do not. It is still a mystery”

“Will it take the prize, do you think?”

“I am not at liberty to give an opinion as yet,” replied Mr. Cornell, with a smile. “There is another picture here, almost if not quite as fine, though much smaller and simpler;” and he took Mr. Ludolph off to show him that.

Dennis was now recognized by Mrs. Leonard and her husband, who came forward and greeted him cordially, and they started on a tour of the gallery together. Though his heart beat fast, he completely ignored Christine’s presence, and responded coldly to Mr. Ludolph’s slight bow.

Christine, on being aware of his presence, furtively devoured him with her eyes. The refining influences of his life were evident in his face and bearing, and she realized her ideal of what a man ought to be. Eagerly she watched till he should discover her painting where it hung opposite his own, and at last she was amply rewarded for all her toil. He stopped suddenly and stood as if spellbound.

The picture was very simple, and few accessories entered into it. Upon a barren rock of an island stood a woman gazing far out at sea, where in the distance a ship was sailing _away_. Though every part had been worked up with exquisite finish, the whole force and power of the painting lay in the expression of the woman’s face, which was an indescribable mingling of longing and despair. Here also Christine had traced a faint resemblance to herself, though the woman was middle-aged and haggard, with famine in her cheeks.

As Dennis looked and wondered, the thought flashed into his mind, “Could _she_ have painted that?” He turned suddenly toward her and was convinced that she had done so; for she was looking at him with something of the same expression, or at least he fancied so. She blushed deeply and turned hastily away. He was greatly agitated, but in view of the eyes that were upon him controlled himself and remained outwardly calm.

Mr. Ludolph also was convinced that his daughter had painted the picture, and he frowned more heavily than before. He turned a dark look on her, and found her regarding Dennis in a manner that caused him to grind his teeth with rage. But he could only sit down and watch the course of events.

The people were now thronging in. The gentlemen who made up the prize, with their committee of award, of which Mr. Cornell was chairman, were also present. Most critically they examined each picture till at last their choice narrowed down to the two paintings above described. But it soon became evident that their choice would fall upon the larger one, and Dennis saw that he was to be the victor. To his surprise Christine seemed utterly indifferent as to the result of their decision. He could not know that the prize had no place in her thoughts when she painted her picture. She had found her reward in its effect on him.

At one o’clock Mr. Cornell came forward and said: “Ladies and gentlemen, and especially do I address that group of liberal citizens who are so generously seeking to encourage art in our great and prosperous city, it gives me pleasure to inform you that your munificence has brought forth rich fruit, for here are many paintings that would do credit to any gallery. We hesitated a little time between two very superior pictures, but at last we have decided that the larger one is worthy of the prize. The smaller picture is one of great merit; its treatment is unusually fine, though the subject is not new.

“The two emblematic pictures in some parts show crude and hasty work; indeed some minor parts are quite unfinished. The artist evidently has not had sufficient time. But the leading features are well wrought out, and the power and originality of the entire effort so impress us that, as I have said, we render our decision in its favor. That all may know our verdict to be fair, we state on our honor that we do not know by whom a single painting present was executed. Dr. Arten, as the largest contributor toward the prize, you are appointed to bestow it. On the back of the picture you will find an envelope containing the name of the artist, whom we all shall delight to honor.”

Amid breathless expectation, Dr. Arten stepped forward, took down the envelope, and read in a loud, trumpet-voice–

“DENNIS FLEET.”

CHAPTER XLI

FIRE! FIRE!

“Will Dennis Fleet come forward?” cried Dr. Arten. Very pale, and trembling with excitement, Dennis stepped out before them all.

“Take heart, my young friend; I am not about to read your death-warrant,” said the doctor, cheerily. “Permit me to present you with this check for two thousand dollars, and express to you what is of more value to the true artist, our esteem and appreciation of your merit. May your brush ever continue to be employed in the presentation of such noble, elevating thoughts.”

And the good doctor, quite overcome by this unusual flight of eloquence, blew his nose vigorously and wiped from his spectacles the moisture with which his own eyes had bedewed them.

Dennis responded with a low bow, and was about to retire; but his few friends, and indeed all who knew him, pressed forward with their congratulations.

Foremost among these were the professor and his wife. Tears of delight fairly shone in Mrs. Leonard’s eyes as she shook his hand again and again. Many others also trooped up for an introduction, till he was quite bewildered by strange names, and compliments that seemed stranger still.

Suddenly a low, well-known voice at his side sent a thrill to his heart and a rush of crimson to his face.

“Will Mr. Fleet deign to receive my congratulations also?”

He turned and met the deep blue eyes of Christine Ludolph lifted timidly to his. But at once the association that had long been uppermost in regard to her–the memory of her supposed treatment of his mother–flashed across him, and he replied, with cold and almost stately courtesy, “The least praise or notice from Miss Ludolph would be a most unexpected favor.”

She thought from his manner that he might as well have said “unwelcome favor,” and with a sad, disappointed look she turned away.

Even in the excitement and triumph of the moment, Dennis was oppressed by the thought that he had not spoken as wisely as he might. Almost abruptly he broke away and escaped to the solitude of his own room.

He did not think about his success. The prize lay forgotten in his pocketbook. He sat in his arm-chair and stared apparently at vacancy, but in reality at the picture that he was sure Christine had painted. He went over and over again with the nicest scrutiny all her actions in the gallery, and now reproached himself bitterly for the repelling answer he had given when she spoke to him. He tried to regain his old anger and hardness in view of her wrongs to him and his, but could not. The tell-tale picture, and traces of sorrow and suffering in her face in accord with it, had disarmed him. He said to himself, and half believed, that he was letting his imagination run away with his reason, but could not help it. At last he seized his hat and hastened to the hotel where Mrs. Leonard was staying. She at once launched out into a eulogistic strain descriptive of her enjoyment of the affair.

“I never was so proud of Chicago,” she exclaimed. “It is the greatest city in the world. Only the other day her streets were prairies. I believe my husband expected to find buffalo and Indians just outside the town. But see! already, by its liberality and attention to art, it begins to vie with some of our oldest cities. But what is the matter? You look so worried.”

“Oh, nothing,” said Dennis, coming out of his troubled, abstracted manner.

With her quick intuition, Mrs. Leonard at once divined his thoughts, and said soon after, when her husband’s back was turned: “All I can say is, that she was deeply, most deeply affected by your picture, but she said nothing to me, more than to express her admiration. My friend, you had better forget her. They sail for Europe very soon; and, besides, she is not worthy of you.”

“I only wish I could forget her, and am angry with myself but I cannot,” he replied, and soon after said “good-night.”

Wandering aimlessly through the streets, he almost unconsciously made his way to the north side, where the Ludolph mansion was situated. Then a strong impulse to Go to it came over him, and for the first time since the far-off day when, stunned and wounded by his bitter disappointment, he had gone away apparently to die, he found himself at the familiar place. The gas was burning in Mr. Ludolph’s library. He went around on the side street (for the house was on a corner), and a light shone from what he knew to be Christine’s studio. She undoubtedly was there. Even such proximity excited him strangely, and in his morbid state he felt that he could almost kiss the feeble rays that shimmered out into the darkened street. In his secret soul he utterly condemned his folly, but promised himself that he would be weak no longer after that one night. The excitements of the day had thrown him off his balance.

Suddenly he heard, sweet and clear, though softened by distance and intervening obstacles, the same weird, pathetic ballad that had so moved him when Christine sang it at Le Grand Hotel, on the evening after he had pointed out the fatal defect in her picture. At short intervals, kindred and plaintive songs followed.

“There is nothing exultant or hopeful about those strains,” he said to himself. “For some reason she is not happy. Oh, that I might have one frank conversation with her and find out the whole truth! But it seems that I might just as well ask for a near look at yonder star that glimmers so distantly. For some reason I cannot believe her so utterly heartless as she has seemed; and then mother has prayed. Can it all end as a miserable dream?”

Late at night the music ceased, and the room was darkened.

Little dreamed Christine that her plaintive minstrelsy had fallen on so sympathetic an ear, and that the man who seemingly had repelled her slightest acquaintance had shivered long hours in the cold, dark street.

So the divine Friend waits and watches, while we, in ignorance and unbelief, pay no heed. Stranger far, He waits and watches when we know, but yet, unrelenting, ignore His presence.

With heavy steps, Dennis wearily plodded homeward. He was oppressed by that deep despondency which follows great fatigue and excitement.

In the southwest he saw a brilliant light. He heard the alarm-bells, and knew there was a fire, but to have aroused him that night it must have come scorchingly close. He reached his dark little room, threw himself dressed on the couch, and slept till nearly noon of the next day.

When he awoke, and realized how the first hours of the Sabbath had passed, he started up much vexed with himself, and after a brief retrospect said: “Such excitements as those of yesterday are little better than a debauch, and I must shun them hereafter. God has blessed and succeeded me, and it is but a poor return I am making. However my unfortunate attachment may end, nothing is gained by moping around in the hours of night. Henceforth let there be an end of such folly.”

He made a careful toilet and sat down to his Sabbath-school lesson.

To his delight he again met Mrs. Leonard, who came to visit her old mission class. She smiled most approvingly, and quoted, “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much.”

He went home with her, and in the evening they all went to church together.

He cried unto the Lord for strength and help, and almost lost consciousness of the service in his earnest prayer for true manhood and courage to go forward to what he feared would be a sad and lonely life. And the answer came; for a sense of power and readiness to do God’s will, and withal a strange hopefulness, inspired him. Trusting in the Divine strength, he felt that he could meet his future now, whatever it might be.

Again the alarm-bells were ringing, and there was a light on the southwest.

“There seems to be a fire over there in the direction of my poor German friend’s house. You remember Mrs. Bruder. I will go and call on them, I think. At any rate I should call, for it is owing to her husband that I won the prize;” and they parted at the church-door.

Christine had left the picture-gallery soon after Dennis’s abrupt departure. Her gay friends had tried in vain to rally her, and rather wondered at her manner, but said, “She is so full of moods of late, you can never know what to expect.”

Her father, with a few indifferent words, left her for his place of business. His hope still was to prevent her meeting Dennis, and to keep up the estrangement that existed.

Christine went home and spent the long hours in bitter revery, which at last she summed up by saying, “I have stamped out his love by my folly, and now his words, ‘I despise you,’ express the whole wretched truth.” Then clenching her little hands she added, with livid lips and a look of scorn: “Since I can never help him (and therefore no one) win earthly greatness, I will never be the humble recipient of it from another. Since his second picture cannot be true of my experience, neither shall the first.”

And she was one to keep such a resolve. The evening was spent, as we know, in singing alone in her studio, this being her favorite, indeed her only way, of giving expression to her feelings. Very late she sought her bed to find but little sleep.

The day of rest brought no rest to her, suggested no hope, no sacred privilege of seeking Divine help to bear up under life’s burdens. To her it was a relic of superstition, at which she chafed as interfering with the usual routine of affairs. She awoke with a headache, and a long miserable day she found it. Sabbath night she determined to have sleep, and therefore took an opiate and retired early.

Mr. Ludolph sat in his library trying to construct some plan by which Christine could be sent to Germany at once.

When Dennis reached the neighborhood of the fire he found it much larger than he supposed, and when he entered Harrison Street, near Mrs. Bruder’s home, he discovered that only prompt action could save the family. The streets were fast becoming choked with fugitives and teams, and the confusion threatened to develop into panic and wide spread danger. The fire was but a block away when he rushed upstairs to the floor which the Bruders occupied. From the way in which blazing brands were flying he knew that there were was not a moment to spare.

He found Mrs. Bruder startled, anxious, but in no way comprehending the situation.

“Quick!” cried Dennis. “Wake and dress the children–pack up what you can lay your hands on and carry–you have no time to do anything more.”

“Ah! mine Gott! vat you mean?”

“Do as I say–there’s no time to explain. Here, Ernst, help me;” and Dennis snatched up one child and commenced dressing it before it could fairly wake. Ernst took up another and followed his example. Mrs. Bruder, recovering from her bewilderment, hastily gathered a few things together, saying in the meantime, “Surely you don’t dink our home burn up?”

“Yes, my poor friend, in five minutes more we must all be out of this building.”

“Oh, den come dis minute! Let me save de schilder;” and, throwing a blanket around the youngest, the frightened woman rushed downstairs, followed by Ernst and his little brother, while Dennis hastened with the last child and the bundle.

Their escape was none too prompt, for the blazing embers were falling to such a degree in the direct line of the fire as to render that position very perilous. But though their progress was necessarily slow, from the condition of the streets, the breadth of the fire was not great at this spot, and they soon reached a point to the west and windward that was safe. Putting the family in charge of Ernst, and telling them to continue westward, Dennis rushed back, feeling that many lives depend upon stout hands and brave hearts that night. Moreover he was in that state of mind which made him court rather than shun danger.

He had hardly left his humble friends before Mrs. Bruder stopped, put her hand on her heart and cried: “Oh, Ernst! Oh, Gott forgive me! dot I should forget him–your fader’s picture. I must go back.”

“Oh, moder, no! you are more to us than the picture” The woman’s eyes were wild and excited, and she cried, vehemently: “Dot picture saved mine Berthold life–yes, more, more, him brought back his artist soul. Vithout him ve vould all be vorse dan dead. I can no live vidout him. Stay here”; and with the speed of the wind the devoted wife rushed back to the burning street, up the stairs, already crackling and blazing, to where the lovely landscape smiled peacefully in the dreadful glare, with its last rich glow of beauty. She tore it from its fastenings, pressed her lips fervently against it, regained the street, but with dress on fire. She staggered forward a few steps in the hot stifling air and smoke, and then fell upon her burden. Spreading her arms over it, to protect it even in death, the mother’s heart went out in agony toward her children.

“Ah, merciful Gott! take care of dem,” she sighed, and the prayer and the spirit that breathed it went up to heaven together.

CHAPTER XLII

BARON LUDOLPH LEARNS THE TRUTH

With eyes ablaze with excitement, Dennis plunged into the region just before the main line of fire, knowing that there the danger would be greatest. None realized the rapidity of its advance. At the door of a tenement-house he found a pale, thin, half-clad woman tugging at a sewing-machine.

“Madam,” cried Dennis, “you have no time to waste over that burden if you wish to escape.”

“What is the use of escaping without it?” she answered, sullenly. “It is the only way I have of making a living.”

“Give it to me then, and follow as fast as you can.” Shouldering what meant to the poor creature shelter, clothing, and bread, he led the way to the southeast, out of the line of fire. It was a long, hard struggle, but they got through safely.

“How can I ever pay you?” cried the grateful woman.

But he did not stay to answer, and now determined to make his way to the west and windward of the fire, as he could then judge better of the chances of its spreading. He thought it safer to go around and back of the flames, as they now seemed much wider, and nearer the south branch of the Chicago River.

He found that he could cross the burned district a little to the southwest, for the small wooden houses were swept so utterly away that there were no heated, blazing ruins to contend with. He also saw that he could do better by making quite a wide circuit, as he thus avoided streets choked by fugitives. Beaching a point near the river on the west side of the fire, he climbed a high pile of lumber, and then discovered to his horror that the fire had caught in several places on the south side, and that the nearest bridges were burning.

To those not familiar with the topography of the city, it should be stated that it is separated by the Chicago River, a slow, narrow stream, into three main divisions, known as the south, the north, and the west side.

By a triumph of engineering, the former mouth of this river at the lake is now its source, the main stream being turned back upon itself, and dividing into two branches at a point a little over half a mile from the lake, one flowing to the southwest into the Illinois, and the other from the northwest into the main stream.

The south division includes all the territory bounded on the east by the lake, on the north by the main river and on the west by the south branch. The north division includes the area bounded on the east by the lake, on the south by the main river, and on the west by the north branch, while the west division embraces all that part of the city west of the two branches. The fire originated in De Koven Street, the southeastern part of the west side, and it was carried steadily to the north and east by an increasing gale. The south side, with all its magnificent buildings, was soon directly in the line of the fire.

When Dennis saw that the flames had crossed the south branch, and were burning furiously beyond, he knew that the best part of the city was threatened with destruction. He hastened to the Washington Street tunnel, where he found a vast throng, carrying all sorts of burdens, rushing either way. He plunged in with the rest, and soon found himself hustled hither and thither by a surging mass of humanity. A little piping voice that seemed under his feet cried: “O mamma! mamma! Where are you? I’m gettin’ lost.”

“Here I am, my child,” answered a voice some steps in advance and Dennis saw a lady carrying another child; but the rushing tide would not let her wait–all, in the place where they were wedged, being carried right along. Stooping down, he put the little girl on his shoulder where she could see her mother, and so they pressed on. Suddenly, in the very midst of the tunnel, the gas ceased, by reason of the destruction of the works, and utter darkness filled the place.

There was a loud cry of consternation, and then a momentary and dreadful silence, which would have been the preface of a fatal panic, had not Dennis cried out, in a ringing voice, “All keep to the right!”

This cry was taken up and repeated on every hand, and side by side, to right and left, the two living streams of humanity, with steady tramp! tramp! rushed past each other.

When they emerged into the glare of the south side Dennis gave the child to its mother and said, “Madam, your only chance is to escape in that direction,” pointing northwest.

He then tried to make his way to the hotel where Professor and Mrs. Leonard were staying, but it was in the midst of an unapproachable sea of fire. If they had not escaped some little time before, they had already perished. He then tried to make his way to the windward toward his own room. His two thousand dollars and all his possessions were there, and the instinct of self-preservation caused him to think it was time to look after his own. But progress was now very difficult. The streets were choked by drays, carriages, furniture, trunks, and every degree and condition of humanity. Besides, his steps were often stayed by thrilling scenes and the need of a helping hand. In order to make his way faster he took a street nearer the fire, from which the people had mostly been driven. As he was hurrying along with his hat drawn over his eyes to avoid the sparks that were driven about like fiery hail, he suddenly heard a piercing shriek. Looking up he saw the figure of a woman at the third story window of a fine mansion that was already burning, though not so rapidly as those in the direct line of the fire. He with a number of others stopped at the sound.

“Who will volunteer with me to save that woman?” cried he.

“Wal, stranger, you can reckon on this old stager for one,” answered a familiar voice.

Dennis turned and recognized his old friend, the Good Samaritan.

“Why, Cronk,” he cried, “don’t you know me? Don’t you remember the young man you saved from starving by suggesting the snow-shovel business?”

“Hello! my young colt. How are you? give us yer hand. But come, don’t let’s stop to talk about snow in this hell of a place with that young filly whinnying up there.”

“Right!” cried Dennis. “Let us find a ladder and rope; quick–“

At a paint-shop around the corner a ladder was found that reached to the second story, and some one procured a rope.

“A thousand dollars,” cried another familiar voice, “to the man who saves that woman!”

Looking round, Dennis saw the burly form of Mr. Brown, the brewer, his features distorted by agony and fear; then glancing up he discovered in the red glare upon her face that the woman was no other than his daughter. She had come to spend the night with a friend, and, being a sound sleeper, had not escaped with the family.

“Who wants yer thousand dollars?” replied Bill Cronk’s gruff voice. “D’ye s’pose we’d hang out here over the bottomless pit for any such trifle as that? We want to save the gal.”

Before Cronk had ended his characteristic speech, Dennis was half-way up the ladder. He entered the second story, only to be driven back by fire and smoke.

“A pole of some kind!” he cried.

The thills of a broken-down buggy supplied this, but the flames had already reached Miss Brown. Being a girl of a good deal of nerve and physical courage, however, she tore off her outer clothing with her own hands. Dennis now passed her the rope on the end of the buggy-thill and told her to fasten it to something in the room that would support her weight, and lower herself to the second story. She fastened it, but did not seem to know how to lower herself. Dennis tried the rope, found it would sustain his weight; then, bringing into use an art learned in his college gymnasium, he over-handed rapidly till he stood at Miss Brown’s side. Drawing up the rope he fastened her to it and lowered her to the ladder, where Bill Cronk caught her, and in a moment more she was in her father’s arms, who at once shielded her from exposure with his overcoat. Dennis followed the rope down, and had hardly got away before the building fell in.

“Is not this Mr. Fleet?” asked Miss Brown.

“Yes.”

“How can we ever repay you?”

“By learning to respect honest men, even though they are not rich, Miss Brown.”

“Did you know who it was when you saved me?”

“Yes.”

“Mr. Fleet, I sincerely ask your pardon.”

But before Dennis could reply they were compelled to fly for their lives.

Mr. Brown shouted as he ran, “Call at the house or place of business of Thomas Brown, and the money will be ready.”

But Thomas Brown would have found it hard work to rake a thousand dollars out of the ashes of either place the following day. The riches in which he trusted had taken wings.

Cronk and Dennis kept together for a short distance, and the latter saw that his friend had been drinking. Their steps led them near a large liquor-store which a party of men and boys were sacking. One of these, half intoxicated, handed Bill a bottle of whiskey, but as the drover was lifting it to his lips Dennis struck it to the ground. Cronk was in a rage instantly.

“What the —- did you do that for?” he growled.

“I would do that and more too to save your life. If you get drunk to-night you are a lost man,” answered Dennis, earnestly.

“Who’s a-goin’ ter get drunk, I’d like ter know? You feel yer oats too much to-night. No man or horse can kick over the traces with me;” and he went off in the unreasoning anger of a half-drunken man. But he carried all his generous impulses with him, for a few minutes after, seeing a man lying in a most dangerous position, he ran up and shook him, crying, “I say, stranger, get up, or yer ribs will soon be roasted.”

“Lemme ‘lone,” was the maudlin answer. “I’ve had drink ’nuff. ‘Tain’t mornin’ yet.”

“Hi, there!” cried a warning voice, and Cronk started back just in time to escape a blazing wall that fell across the street. The stupefied man he had sought to arouse was hopelessly buried. Cronk, having got out of danger, stood and scratched his head, his favorite way of assisting reflection.

“That’s just what that young critter Fleet meant. What a cussed ole mule I was to kick up so! Ten chances to one but it will happen to me afore mornin’. Look here, Bill Cronk, you jist p’int out of this fiery furnace. You know yer failin’, and there’s too long and black a score agin you in t’other world for you to go to-night;” and Bill made a bee line for the west side.

Struggling off to windward through the choked streets for a little distance, Dennis ascended the side stairs of a tall building, in order to get more accurately the bearings of the fire. He now for the first time realized its magnitude, and was appalled. It appeared as if the whole south side must go. At certain points the very heavens seemed on fire. The sparks filled the air like flakes of fiery snow, and great blazing fragments of roofs, and boards from lumber yards, sailed over his head, with the ill-omened glare of meteors. The rush and roar of the wind and flames were like the thunder of Niagara, and to this awful monotone accompaniment was added a Babel of sounds–shrieks, and shouts of human voices, the sharp crash of falling buildings, and ever and anon heavy detonations, as the fire reached explosive material. As he looked down into the white upturned faces in the thronged streets, it seemed to him as if the people might be gathering for the last great day. Above all the uproar, the court-house bell could be heard, with its heavy, solemn clangor, no longer ringing alarm, but the city’s knell.

But he saw that if he reached his own little room in time to save anything he must hasten. His course lay near the Art Building, the place so thronged with associations to him. An irresistible impulse drew him to it. It was evident that it must soon go, for an immense building to the southwest, on the same block, was burning, and the walls were already swaying.

Suddenly a man rushed past him, and Mr. Ludolph put his pass key in the side door.

“Mr. Ludolph, it is not safe to enter,” said Dennis.

“What are you doing here with your ill-omened face?” retorted his old employer, turning toward him a countenance terrible in its expression. As we have seen, anything that threatened Mr. Ludolph’s interests, even that which most men bow before, as sickness and disaster, only awakened his anger; and his face was black with passion and distorted with rage.

The door yielded, and he passed in.

“Come back, quick, Mr. Ludolph, or you are lost!” cried Dennis at the door.

“I will get certain papers, though the heavens fall!” yelled back the infuriated man, with an oath.

Dennis heard an awful rushing sound in the air. He drew his hat over his face as he ran, crouching. Hot bricks rained around him, but fortunately he escaped.

When he turned to look, the Art Building was a crushed and blazing ruin. Sweet girlish faces that had smiled upon him from the walls, beautiful classical faces that had inspired his artist soul, stern Roman faces, that had made the past seem real, the human faces of gods and goddesses that made mythology seem not wholly a myth, and the white marble faces of the statuary, that ever reminded him of Christine, were now all blackened and defaced forever. But not of these he thought, as he shudderingly covered his eyes with his hands to shut out the vision; but of that terrible face that in the darkness had yelled defiance to Heaven.

CHAPTER XLIII

“CHRISTINE, AWAKE! FOR YOUR LIFE!”

Dennis was too much stunned and bewildered to do more than instinctively work his way to the windward as the only point of safety, but the fire was now becoming so broad in its sweep that to do this was difficult. The awful event he had witnessed seemed partially to paralyze him; for he knew that the oath, hot as the scorching flames, was scarcely uttered before Mr. Ludolph’s lips were closed forever. He and his ambitious dream perished in a moment, and he was summoned to the other world to learn what his proud reason scoffed at in this.

For a block or more Dennis was passively borne alone by the rushing mob. Suddenly a voice seemed to shout almost in his ear, “The north side is burning!” and he started as from a dream. The thought of Christine flashed upon him, perishing perhaps in the flames. He remembered that now she had no protector, and that he for the moment had forgotten her; though in truth he had never imagined that she could be imperilled by the burning of the north side.

In an agony of fear and anxiety he put forth every effort of which he was capable, and tore through the crowd as if mad. There was no way of getting across the river now save by the La Salle Street tunnel. Into this dark passage he plunged with multitudes of others. It was indeed as near Pandemonium as any earthly condition could be. Driven forward by the swiftly pursuing flames, hemmed in on every side, a shrieking, frenzied, terror-stricken throng rushed into the black cavern. Every moral grade was represented there. Those who led abandoned lives were plainly recognizable, their guilty consciences finding expression in their livid faces. These jostled the refined and delicate lady, who, in the awful democracy of the hour, brushed against thief and harlot. Little children wailed for their lost parents, and many were trampled underfoot. Parents cried for their children, women shrieked for their husbands, some praying, many cursing with oaths as hot as the flames that crackled near. Multitudes were in no other costumes than those in which they had sprung from their beds. Altogether it was a strange, incongruous, writhing mass of humanity, such as the world had never looked upon, pouring into what might seem, in its horrors, the mouth of hell.

As Dennis entered the utter darkness, a confused roar smote his ear that might have appalled the stoutest heart, but he was now oblivious to everything save Christine’s danger. With set teeth he put his shoulder against the living mass and pushed with the strongest till he emerged into the glare of the north side. Here, escaping somewhat from the throng, he made his way rapidly to the Ludolph mansion, which to his joy he found was still considerably to the windward of the fire. But he saw that from the southwest another line of flame was bearing down upon it.

The front door was locked, and the house utterly dark. He rang the bell furiously, but there was no response. He walked around under the window and shouted, but the place remained as dark and silent as a tomb. He pounded on the door, but its massive thickness scarcely admitted of a reverberation.

“They must have escaped,” he said; “but, merciful heaven! there must be no uncertainty in this case. What shall I do?”

The windows of the lower story were all strongly guarded and hopeless, but one opening on the balcony of Christine’s studio seemed practicable if it could be reached. A half-grown elm swayed its graceful branches over the balcony, and Dennis knew the tough and fibrous nature of this tree. In the New England woods of his early home he had learned to climb for nuts like a squirrel, and so with no great difficulty he mounted the trunk and dropped from an overhanging branch to the point he sought. The window was down at the top, but the lower sash was fastened. He could see the catch by the light of the fire. He broke the pane of glass nearest it, hoping that the crash might awaken Christine, if she were still there. But after the clatter died away there was no sound. He then noisily raised the sash and stepped in.

What a rush of memories came over him as he looked around the familiar place! There was the spot on which he had stood and asked for the love that he had valued more than life. There stood the easel on which, through Christine’s gifted touch, his painted face had pleaded with scarcely less eloquence, till he blotted it out with his own hand. In memory of it all his heart again failed him, and he sighed, “She will never love me.”

But there was no time for sentiment. He called loudly: “Miss Ludolph, awake! awake! for your life!”

There was no answer. “She must be gone,” he said. The front room, facing toward the west, he knew to be her sleeping-apartment. Going through the passage, he knocked loudly, and called again; but in the silence that followed he heard his own watch tick, and his heart beat. He pushed the door open with the feeling of one profaning a shrine, and looked timidly in. Even in that thrilling hour of peril and anxiety, his eye was enraptured by the beauty of the room. Not only was it furnished with the utmost luxuriance, but everything spoke of a quaint and cultured taste, from the curious marble clock and bronze on the mantel, even to the pattern of the Turkey carpet on which the glare of the fire, as it glinted through the shutters, played faintly. One of the most marked features, however, was an exquisite life-size statue of Diana at the foot of the bed, grasping her bow with one hand, and in the act of seizing an arrow with the other, as if aroused to self-defence. When Dennis first saw it, he was so startled by its lifelike attitude that he stepped back into the passage. But, with all the beauty of the room, it was utterly pagan; not a single thing suggested Christian faith or a knowledge of the true God. With the exception of its modern air, it might just as well have been the resting-place of a Greek or Roman maiden of rank.

Reassured, he timidly advanced again, and then for the first time, between the two marble statuettes holding back the curtains of the bed, saw Christine, but looking more white and deathlike than the marble itself.

She lay with her face toward him. Her hair of gold, unconfined, streamed over the pillow; one fair round arm, from which her night-robe had slipped back, was clasped around her head, and a flickering ray of light, finding access at the window, played upon her face and neck with the strangest and most weird effect.

So deep was her slumber that she seemed dead, and Dennis, in his overwrought state, thought that she was. For a moment his heart stood still, and his tongue was paralyzed. A distant explosion aroused him. Approaching softly he said, in an awed whisper (he seemed powerless to speak louder), “Miss Ludolph!–Christine!”

But the light of the coming fire played and flickered over the still, white face, that never before had seemed so strangely beautiful.

“Miss Ludolph!–Oh, Christine, awake!” cried Dennis, louder.

To his wonder and unbounded perplexity, he saw the hitherto motionless lips wreathe themselves into a lovely smile, but otherwise there was no response, and the ghostly light played and flickered on, dancing on temple, brow, and snowy throat, and clasping the white arm in wavy circlets of gold. It was all so weird and strange that he was growing superstitious, and losing faith in his own senses. He could not know that she was under the influence of an opiate, and that his voice of all others could, like a faint echo, find access to her mind so deeply sunk in lethargy.

But a louder and nearer explosion, like a warning voice, made him wholly desperate; and he roughly seized her hand, determining to dispel the illusion, and learn the truth at once.

Christine’s blue eyes opened wide with a bewildered stare; a look of the wildest terror came into them, and she started up and shrieked, “Father! father!”

Then turning toward the as yet unknown invader, she cried, piteously: “Oh, spare my life! Take everything; I will give you anything you ask, only spare my life.”

She evidently thought herself addressing a ruthless robber.

Dennis retreated toward the door the moment she awakened; and this somewhat reassured her.

In the firm, quiet tone that always calms excitement he replied, “I only ask you to give me your confidence, Miss Ludolph, and to join with me, Dennis Fleet, in my effort to save your life.”

“Dennis Fleet! Dennis Fleet! save my life! Oh, ye gods, what does it all mean?” and she passed her hand in bewilderment across her brow, as if to brush away the wild fancies of a dream.

“Miss Ludolph, as you love your life arouse yourself and escape! The city is burning!”

“I don’t believe it!” she cried, in an agony of terror and anger. “Leave the room! How dare you! You are not Dennis Fleet; he is a white man, and you are black! You are an impostor! Leave quick, or my father will come and take your life! Father! father!”

Dennis without a word stepped to the window, tore aside the curtain, threw open the shutters, and the fire filled the room with the glare of noonday. At that moment an explosion occurred which shook the very earth. Everything rattled, and a beautiful porcelain vase fell crashing to the floor.

Christine shrieked and covered her face with her hands.

Dennis approached the bedside, and said in a gentle, firm tone that she knew to be his: “Miss Ludolph, I _am_ Mr. Fleet. My face is blackened through smoke and dust, as is every one’s out in the streets to-night. You know something of me, and I think you know nothing dishonorable. Can you not trust me? Indeed you must; your life depends upon it!”

“Oh, pardon me, Mr. Fleet!” she cried, eagerly. “I am not worthy of this, but now that I know you, I do trust you from the depth of my soul!”

“Prove it then by doing just as I bid you,” he replied, in a voice so firm and prompt that it seemed almost stern. Retreating to the door, he continued: “I give you just five minutes in which to make your toilet and gather a light bundle of your choicest valuables. Dress in woollen throughout, and dress warmly. I will see that the servants are aroused. Your father is on the south side, and cannot reach you. You must trust in God and what I can do for you.”

“I must trust to you _alone_,” she said. “Please send my maid to me.”

Mr. Ludolph had sipped his wine during the evening, and his servants had sipped, in no dainty way, something stronger, and therefore had not awakened readily. But the uproar in the streets had aroused them, and Dennis found them scuttling down the upper stairs in a half-clad state, each bearing a large bundle, which had been made up without regard to _meum_ and _tuum_.

“Och, murther! is the world burning up?” cried the cook.

“Be still, ye howlin’ fool,” said the cool and travelled maid. “It’s only von big fire!”

“Go to your mistress and help her, quick!” cried Dennis.

“Go to my meestress! I go to de street and save my life.”

“Oh, Janette!” cried Christine. “Come and help me!”

“I am meeserable zat I cannot. I must bid mademoiselle quick adieu,” said the heartless creature, still keeping up the veneer of French politeness.

Dennis looked through the upper rooms and was satisfied that they were empty. Suddenly a piercing shriek from Christine sent him flying to her room. As he ran he heard her cry, “Oh, Mr. Fleet! come! help!”

To go back a little (for on that awful night events marched as rapidly as the flames, and the experience of years was crowded into hours, and that of hours into moments), Christine had sought as best she could to obey Dennis’s directions, but she was sadly helpless, having been trained to a foolish dependence on her maid. She had accomplished but little when she heard a heavy step in the room. Looking up, she saw a strange man regarding her with an evil eye.

“What do you want?” she faltered.

“You, for one thing, and all you have got, for another,” was the brutal reply.

“Leave this room!” she cried, in a voice she vainly tried to render firm.

“Not just yet,” he answered, with a satanic grin. She sought to escape by him with the loud cry that Dennis heard, but the ruffian planted his big grimy hand in the delicate frill of her night-robe where it clasped her throat, and with a coarse laugh said: “Not so fast, my dainty!”

Trembling and half fainting (for she had no physical courage), she cried for Dennis, and never did knightly heart respond with more brave and loving throb to the cry of helpless woman than his. He came with almost the impetus of a thunderbolt, and the man, startled, looked around, and catching a glimpse of Dennis’s blazing eyes, dropped his hold on Christine, and shrank and cowered from the blow he could not avert. Before his hand could instinctively reach the pistol it sought, there was a thud, and he fell like a log to the floor. Then, springing upon him, Dennis took away his weapons, and, seizing him by the collar of his coat, dragged him backward downstairs and thrust him into the street. Pointing his own pistol at him, he said, “If you trouble us again, I will shoot you like a dog!”

The villain slunk off, and finding some kindred spirits sacking a liquor-store not far off, he joined the orgy, seeking to drown his rage in rum, and he succeeded so effectually that he lay in the gutter soon after. The escaping multitude trampled over him, and soon the fire blotted out his miserable existence, as it did that of so many who rendered themselves powerless by drink.

When Dennis returned he found Christine panting helplessly on a chair.

“Oh, dress! dress!” he cried. “We have not a moment to spare.”

The sparks and cinders were falling about the house, a perfect storm of fire. The roof was already blazing, and smoke was pouring down the stairs.

At his suggestion she had at first laid out a heavy woollen dress and Scotch plaid shawl. She nervously sought to put on the dress, but her trembling fingers could not fasten it over her wildly throbbing bosom. Dennis saw that in the terrible emergency he must act the part of a brother or husband, and springing forward he assisted her with the dexterity he had learned in childhood.

Just then a blazing piece of roof, borne on the wings of the gale, crashed through the window, and in a moment the apartment, that had seemed like a beautiful casket for a still more exquisite jewel, was in flames.

Hastily wrapping Christine in the blanket shawl, he snatched her, crying and wringing her hands, into the street.

Holding his hand she ran two or three blocks with all the speed her wild terror prompted; then her strength began to fail, and she pantingly cried that she could run no longer. But this rapid rush carried them out of immediate peril, and brought them into the flying throng pressing their way northward and westward. Wedged into the multitude they could only move on with it in the desperate struggle forward. But fire was falling about them like a meteoric shower.

Suddenly Christine uttered a sharp cry of pain. She had stepped on a burning cinder, and then realized for the first time, in her excitement, that her feet were bare.

“Oh, what shall I do?” she cried piteously, limping and leaning heavily on Dennis’s arm.

“Indeed, Miss Ludolph, from my heart I pity you.”

“Can you save me? Oh, do you think you can save me?” she moaned, in an agony of fear.

“Yes, I feel sure I can. At any rate I shall not leave you;” and taking her a little out of the jostling crowd he kneeled and bound up the burned foot with his handkerchief. A little further on they came to a shoe-store with doors open and owners gone. Almost carrying Christine into it, for her other foot was cut and bleeding, he snatched down a pair of boy’s stout gaiters, and wiping with another handkerchief the blood and dust from her tender little feet, he made the handkerchiefs answer for stockings, and drew the shoes on over them.

In the brief moment so occupied, Christine said, with tears in her eyes: “Mr. Fleet, how kind you are! How little I deserve all this!”

He looked up with a happy smile, and she little knew that her few words amply repaid him.

There was a crash in the direction of the fire. With a cry of fear, Christine put out her hands and clung to him.

“Oh, we shall perish! Are you not afraid?”

“I tremble for you, Miss Ludolph.”

“Not for yourself?”

“No! why should I? I am safe. Heaven and mother are just beyond this tempest.”

“I would give worlds for your belief.” “Come, quick!” cried he, and they joined the fugitives, and for a half-hour pressed forward as fast as was possible through the choked streets, Dennis merely saying an encouraging word now and then. Suddenly she felt herself carried to one side, and falling to the ground with him. In a moment he lifted her up, and she saw with sickening terror an infuriated dray-horse plunging through the crowd, striking down men, women, and children.

“Are you hurt?” he asked, gently, passing his arm around her and helping her forward, that they might not lose a single step.

“Awful! Awful!” she said, in a low, shuddering tone.

The dreadful scenes and the danger were beginning to overpower her.

A little further on they reached an avenue to the northwest through which Dennis hoped to escape. But they could make but little headway through the dense masses of drays, carriages, and human beings, and at last everything came to a deadlock. Their only hope was to stand in their place till the living mass moved on again.

Strange, grotesque, and sad beyond measure were the scenes by which they were surrounded. By the side of the aristocratic Christine, now Baroness Ludolph, stood a stout Irishwoman, hugging a grunting, squealing pig to her breast. A little in advance a hook-nosed spinster carried in a cage a hook nosed parrot that kept discordantly crying, “Polly want a cracker.” At Dennis’s left a delicate lady of the highest social standing clasped to her bare bosom a babe that slept as peacefully as in the luxurious nursery at home. At her side was a little girl carrying as tenderly a large wax doll. A diamond necklace sparkled like a circlet of fire around the lady’s neck. Her husband had gone to the south side, and she had had but time to snatch this and her children. A crowd of obscene and profane rowdies stood just behind them, and with brutal jest and coarse laughter they passed around a whiskey-bottle. One of these roughs caught a glimpse of the diamond necklace, and was putting forth his blackened hand to grasp it, when Dennis pointed the captured pistol at him and said, “This is law now!”

The fellow slunk back.

Just before them was a dray with a corpse half covered with a blanket. The family sat around crying and wringing their hands, and the driver stood in his seat, cursing and gesticulating for those in advance to move on. Some moments passed, but there was no progress. Dennis became very anxious, for the fire was rapidly approaching, and the sparks were falling like hail. Every few moments some woman’s dress was ablaze, or some one was struck by the flying brands, and shrieks for help were heard on every side. Christine, being clad in woollen, escaped this peril in part. She stood at Dennis’s side trembling like a leaf, with her hands over her face to shut out the terrible sights.

At last the driver, fearing for his life, jumped off his dray and left all to their fate. But a figure took his place that thrilled Dennis’s heart with horror.

There on the high seat stood Susie Winthrop–rather Mrs. Leonard. The light of insanity glowed in her eyes; her long hair swept away to the north, and turning toward the fiery tempest she bent forward as if looking for some one. But after a moment she sadly shook her head, as if she had sought in vain. Suddenly she reached out her white arms toward the fire, and sang, clear and sweet above the horrid din:

“O burning flakes of fiery snow,
Bury me too, bury me deep;
My lover sleeps thy banks below; Fall on me, that I may sleep!”

At this moment a blazing brand fell upon the horses’ heads; they startled forward, and the crazed lady fell over on the corpse below. The animals being thoroughly terrified turned sharp around on the sidewalk, and tore their way right toward the fire, trampling down those in their track, and so vanished with their strangely assorted load.

Dennis, fearing to stay any longer where he was, determined to follow in their wake and find a street leading to the north less choked, even though it might be nearer the fire, and so with his trembling companion he pressed forward again.

Two blocks below he found one comparatively clear, but in terrible proximity to the conflagration. Indeed, the houses were burning on each side, but the street seemed clear of flame. He thought that by swiftly running they could get through. But Christine’s strength was fast failing her, and just as they reached the middle of the block a tall brick building fell across the street before them! Thus their only path of escape was blocked by a blazing mass of ruins that it would have been death to cross.

They seemed hemmed in on every side, and Dennis groaned in agony.

Christine looked for a moment at the impassable fiery barrier, then at Dennis, in whose face and manner she read unutterable sympathy for herself, and the truth flashed upon her.

With a piercing shriek she fainted dead away in his arms.

CHAPTER XLIV

ON THE BEACH

In the situation of supreme peril described in the last chapter, Dennis stood a second helpless and hopeless. Christine rested a heavy burden in his arms, happily unconscious. Breathing an agonized prayer to heaven, he looked around for any possibility of escape. Just then an express-wagon was driven furiously toward them, its driver seeking his way out by the same path that Dennis had chosen. As he reached them the man saw the hopeless obstruction, and wheeled his horses. As he did so, quick as thought, Dennis threw Christine into the bottom of the wagon, and, clinging to it, climbed into it himself. He turned her face downward from the fire, and, covering his own, he crouched beside her, trusting all now to God.

The driver urged his horses toward the lake, believing that his only chance. They tore away through the blazing streets. The poor man was soon swept from his seat and perished, but his horses rushed madly on till they plunged into the lake.

At the sound of water Dennis lifted his head and gave a cry of joy. It seemed that the hand of God had snatched them from death. Gently he lifted Christine out upon the sands and commenced bathing her face from the water that broke in spray at his feet. She soon revived and looked around. In a voice full of awe and wonder she whispered, “Ah! there is another world and another life, after all.”

“Indeed there is, Miss Ludolph,” said Dennis, supporting her on his arm and bending over her, “but, thanks to a merciful Providence, you are still in this one.”

“How is it?” she said, with a bewildered air. “I do not understand. The last I remember, we were surrounded by fire, you were despairing, and it seemed that I died.”

“You fainted, Miss Ludolph. But God as by a miracle brought us out of the furnace, and for the present we are safe.” After she had sufficiently rallied from her excessive exhaustion and terror, he told her how they escaped.

“I see no God in it all,” she said; “only a most fortunate opportunity, of which you, with great nerve and presence of mind, availed yourself. To you alone, again and again this dreadful night, I owe my life.”

“God uses us as His instruments to do His will. The light will come to you by and by, and you will learn a better wisdom.”

“In this awful conflagration the light has come. On every side I see as in letters of fire, ‘There is no God.’ If it were otherwise these scenes would be impossible. And any being permitting or causing the evils and crimes this dreadful night has witnessed, I shall fear and hate beyond the power of language to express.”

She uttered these words sitting on the sands with multitudes of others, her face (from which Dennis had washed the dust and smoke) looking in the glare so wan and white that he feared, with a sickening dread, that through exposure, terror, or some of the many dangers by which they were surrounded, she might pass into the future world with all her unbelief and spiritual darkness. He yearned over her with a solicitude and pity that he could not express. She seemed so near–indeed he could feel her form tremble, as she kneeled beside her, and supported her by his arm–and yet, in view of her faithless state, how widely were they separated! Should any one of the many perils about them quench the little candle of her life, which even now flickered faintly, where in the wide universe could he hope to meet her again? God can no doubt console His children and make up to them every loss, but the passionate heart, with its intense human love, clings to its idol none the less. Dennis saw that the fire would probably hem them in on the beach for the remainder of the night and the following day. He determined therefore in every way possible to beguile the weary, perilous hours, and, if she would permit it, to lead her thoughts heavenward. Hence arose from time to time conversations, to which, with joy, he found Christine no longer averse. Indeed, she often introduced them.

Chafing her hands, he said in accents of the deepest sympathy, “How I pity you, Miss Ludolph! It must indeed be terrible to possess your thoughtful mind, to realize these scenes so keenly, and yet have no faith in a Divine Friend. I cannot explain to you the mystery of evil–why it came, or why it exists. Who can? I am but one of God’s little children, and only know with certainty that my Heavenly Father loves and will take care of me.”

“How do you know it?” she asked, eagerly.

“In several ways. Mainly because I feel it.”

“It all seems so vague and unreal,” she sighed, dreamily. “There is nothing certain, assured. There is no test by which I can at once know the truth.”

“That does not prevent the truth from existing. That some are blind is no proof that color does not exist.”

“But how can you be sure there is a God? You never saw Him.”

“I do not see the heat that scorches us, but I feel it, and know it exists.”

“But I feel the heat the same as yourself, and I have no consciousness of a Divine Being.”

“That does not take away my consciousness that He is my Saviour and Friend. As yet you are spiritually dead. If you were physically dead, you would not feel the heat of this fire.”

“Oh, it is all mystery–darkness,” she cried, piteously.

The sun had now risen quite above the waters of the lake, but seen through the lurid smoke which swept over its face, it seemed like one of the great red cinders that were continually sailing over their heads. In the frightful glare, the transition from night to day had scarcely been noted. The long, narrow beach was occupied by thousands of fugitives, who were hemmed in on every side. On the south was the river, skirted with fire, while opposite, on the west, the heat was almost intolerable; on the east were the cold waves of the lake, and on the north a burning pier that they could not cross. Their only hope was to cling to that narrow line where fire and water mingled, and with one element to fight the other. Here again was seen the mingling of all classes which the streets and every place of refuge witnessed. Judges, physicians, statesmen, clergymen, bankers, were jostled by roughs and thieves. The laborer sat on the sand with his family, side by side with the millionaire and his household. The poor debauched woman of the town moaned and shivered in her scant clothing, at a slight remove from the most refined Christian lady. In the unparalleled disaster, all social distinctions were lost, levelled like the beach on which the fugitives cowered. From some groups was heard the voice of prayer; from others, bitter wailings and passionate cries for lost members of the family; others had saved quantities of vile whiskey, if nothing else, and made the scene more ghastly by orgies that seemed not of earth. Added to the liquor were the mad excitement and recklessness which often seize the depraved classes on such occasions. They committed excesses that cannot be mentioned-these drunken, howling, fighting wretches. Obscene epithets and words fell around like blows. And yet all were so occupied with their own misfortunes, sufferings, and danger, as scarcely to heed their neighbors, unless these became very violent.

Upon this heterogeneous mass of humanity the fire rained down almost as we imagine it to have fallen upon the doomed cities of the plain, and the hot breath of the flames scorched the exposed cheek and crisped even eyebrows and hair. Sparks, flakes, cinders, pieces of roof, and fiery pebbles seemed to fill the air, and often cries and shrieks announced that furniture and bedding which had been dragged thither, and even the clothing of women and children, were burning. Added to all the other terrors of the scene was the presence of large numbers of horses and cattle, snorting and plunging in their fright and pain.

But the sound that smote Dennis’s heart with the deepest commiseration was the continuous wail of helpless little children, many of them utterly separated from parents and friends, and in the very agony of fear.

He greatly dreaded the effect of these upon Christine, knowing how, in the luxurious past, she had been shielded from every rough experience. But she at length rallied into something like composure. Her constitution was elastic and full of vitality, and after escaping from immediate danger she again began to hope. Moreover, to a degree that even she could not understand, his presence was a source of strength and courage, and her heart clung to him with desperate earnestness, believing him the sole barrier against immediate death, and (what she dreaded scarcely less) a lonely, wretched existence, should her life be spared.

Though he never lost sight of her for a moment, and kept continually wetting her hair and person, he found time to render assistance to others, and, by carrying his hat full of water here and there, extinguished many a dangerous spark. He also, again and again, snatched up little children from under the trampling hoofs of frightened horses.

As she watched him, so self-forgetful and fearless, she realized more and more vividly that he was sustained and animated by some mighty principle that she knew nothing of, and could not understand. The impression grew upon her that he was right and she wrong. Though it all remained in mystery and doubt, she could not resist the logic of true Christian action.

But as the day advanced the flames grew hotter, and their breath more withering. About noon Dennis noticed that some shanties on the sand near them were in danger of catching fire and perilling all in that vicinity. Therefore he said, “Miss Ludolph, stay here where I leave you for a little time, so that I may know just where to find you.”

“Oh, do not leave me!” she pleaded: “I have no one in the wide world to help me except you.”

“I shall not be beyond call. You see those shanties there; if possible we must keep them from burning, or the fire will come too near for safety.” Then, starting forward, he cried, “Who will volunteer to keep the fire back? All must see that if those buildings burn we shall be in danger.”

Several men stepped forward, and with hats and anything that would hold water they began to wet the old rookeries. But the fiery storm swooped steadily down on them, and their efforts were as futile as if they had tried to beat back the wind. Suddenly a mass of flame leaped upon the buildings, and in a moment they were all ablaze.

“Into the lake, quick!” cried Dennis, and all rushed for the cool waters.

Lifting Christine from the sand, and passing his arm around her trembling, shivering form, he plunged through the breakers, and the crowd pressed after him. Indeed they pushed him so far out in the cold waves that he nearly lost his footing, and for a few moments Christine lost hers altogether, and added her cries to those of the terror-stricken multitude. But pushing in a little nearer the shore, he held her firmly and said with the confidence that again inspired hope: “Courage, Miss Ludolph. With God’s help I will save you yet.”

Even as she clung to him in the water, she looked into his face. He was regarding her so kindly, so pitifully, that a great and generous impulse, the richest, ripest fruit of her human love, throbbed at her heart, and faltered from her lips–“Mr. Fleet, I am not worthy of this risk on your part. If you will leave me you can save your own life, and your life is worth so much more than mine!”

True and deep must have been the affection that could lead Christine Ludolph to say such words to any human being. There was a time when, in her creed, all the world existed but to minister to her. But she was not sorry to see the look of pained surprise which came into Dennis’s face and to hear him say, very sadly: “Miss Ludolph, I did not imagine that you could think me capable of that. I had the good fortune to rescue Miss Brown last night, at greater peril than this, and do you think I would leave you?”

“You are a true knight, Mr. Fleet,” she said, humbly, “and the need or danger of every defenceless woman is alike a sacred claim upon you.”

Dennis was about to intimate that, though this was true in knightly creed, still among all the women in the world there might be a preference, when a score of horses, driven before the fire, and goaded by the burning cinders, rushed down the beach, into the water, right among the human fugitives.

Again went up the cry of agony and terror. Some were no doubt stricken down not to rise again. In the melee Dennis pushed out into deeper water, where the frantic animals could not plunge upon him. A child floated near, and he snatched it up. As soon as the poor brutes became quiet, clasping Christine with his right arm and holding up the child with the other, he waded into shallow water.

The peril was now perhaps at its height, and all were obliged to wet their heads, to keep even their hair from singeing. Those on the beach threw water on each other without cessation. Many a choice bit of property–it might be a piano, or an express-wagon loaded with the richest furs and driven to the beach as a place of fancied security–now caught fire, and added to the heat and consternation.

When this hour of extreme danger had passed, standing with the cold billows of the lake breaking round him, and the billows of fire still rolling overhead, Dennis began to sing in his loud, clear voice:

“Jesus, lover of my soul,
Let me to thy bosom fly,
While the billows near me roll, While the tempest still is high.”

Voice after voice joined in, some loud and strong, but others weak and trembling–the pitiful cry of poor terror-stricken women to the only One who it seemed could help them in their bitter extremity. Never before were those beautiful words sung in such accents of clinging, touching faith. Its sweet cadence was heard above the roar of the flames and the breakers.