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Christine could only cling weeping to Dennis.

When the hymn ceased, in harshest discord the voice of a half-drunken man grated on their ears.

“An’ what in bloody blazes does yer Jasus burn us all up for, I’d like to know. Sure an’ he’s no right to send us to hell before our time.”

“Oh, hush! hush!” cried a dozen voices, shocked and pained.

“Divil a bit will I hush, sure; an’ haven’t I as good a right to have me say as that singin’ parson!”

“You are an Irishman, are you not?” said Dennis, now venturing out of the water.

“Yis! what have ye got to say agin it?” asked the man, belligerent at once.

“Did you ever know an Irishman refuse to do what a lady asked of him?”

“Faith no, and I niver will.”

“Then this lady, who is sick and suffering, asks you to please keep still, and I will be still also; so that’s fair.”

The Irishman scratched his head a moment, and said in a quieter tone, “Since ye spake so civil and dacent, I’ll do as ye sez; and here’s to the leddy’s health;” and he finished a bottle of whiskey, which he soon laid him out on the beach.

“Thank you! Thank you!” said grateful voices on every side.

Dennis found the mother of the child and gave it to her; and then causing Christine to sit down near the water, where he could easily throw it on her, he stood at her side, vigilant and almost tender in his solicitude. Her tears were falling very fast, and he presently stooped down and said, gently, “Miss Ludolph, I think the worst of the danger is over.”

“Oh, Mr. Fleet!” she whispered, “dreadful as it may seem to you, the words of that drunken brute there are nearer the language of my heart than those of your sweet hymn. How can a good God permit such creatures and evils to exist?”

“Again I must say to you,” said Dennis, “that I cannot explain the mystery of evil. But I know this, God is superior to it; He will at last triumph over it. The Bible reveals Him to us as able and as seeking to deliver all who will trust Him and work with Him, and those who venture out upon His promises find them true. Miss Ludolph, this is not merely a matter of theory, argument, and belief. It is more truly a matter of experience. The Bible invites, ‘Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good.’ I have tasted and know He is. I have trusted Him for years, and He never failed me.”

“You certainly have been sustained throughout this dreadful scene by a principle that I cannot understand, but I would give all the world to possess it.”

“You may possess it, Miss Ludolph.”

“How? how?” she asked, eagerly.

“Do you wish to believe as I do?”

“Yes, indeed; and yet my heart rebels against a God who permits, even if He does not cause, all this evil.”

“Does it rebel against a Being who from first to last tries to save men from evil?”

“Tries! tries! what an expression to apply to a God! Why does He not do it in every case?”

“Because multitudes will not let Him.”

“Oh, that is worse still! Surely, Mr. Fleet, you let your reason have nothing to do with your faith. How can a poor and weak being like myself prevent an Almighty one from doing what He pleases?”

“I am stronger than you, Miss Ludolph, and yet I could not have saved you to-night unless you had first trusted me, and then done everything in your power to further my efforts.”

“But your power is human and limited, and you say God is all-powerful.”

“Yes, but it is His plan and purpose never to save us against our will. He has made us in His own image and endowed us with reason, conscience, and a will to choose between good and evil. He appeals to these noble faculties from first to last. He has given us hearts, and seeks to win them by revealing His love to us. More than all, His Spirit, present in the world, uses every form of truth in persuading and making us willing to become His true children. So you see that neither on the one hand does God gather us up like drift-wood nor does He on the other drag us at His chariot wheels, unwilling captives, as did those who, at various times, have sought to overrun the world by force. God seeks to conquer the world by the might of the truth, by the might of love.”

Christine was hanging with the most eager interest on his words. Suddenly his eyes, which had expressed such a kindly and almost tender interest in her, blazed with indignation, and he darted up the beach. Turning around she saw, at some little distance, a young woman most scantily clad, clinging desperately to a bundle which a large, coarse man was trying to wrench from her. The wretch, finding that he could not loosen her hold, struck her in the face with such force that she fell stunned upon the ground, and the bundle flew out of her hand. He eagerly snatched it up, believing it to contain jewelry. Before he could escape he was confronted by an unexpected enemy. But Dennis was in a passion, and withal weak and exhausted, while his adversary was cool, and an adept in the pugilistic art. The two men fought savagely, and Christine, forgetting herself in her instinctive desire to help Dennis, was rushing to his side, crying, “If there is a man here worthy of the name, let him strike for the right!” but before she and others could reach the combatants the thief had planted his fist on Dennis’s temple. Though the latter partially parried the blow, it fell with such force as to extend him senseless on the earth. The villain, with a shout of derision, snatched up the bundle and dashed off apparently toward the fire. There was but a feeble attempt made to follow him. Few understood the case, and indeed scenes of violence and terror had become so common that the majority had grown apathetic, save in respect to their personal well-being.

Christine lifted the pale face, down which the blood was trickling, into her lap, and cried, in a tone of indescribable anguish, “Oh, he is dead! he is dead!”

“Oh, no, miss; he is not dead, I guess,” said a good-natured voice near. “Let me bring a hatful of water from the lake, and that’ll bring him to.”

And so it did. Dennis opened his eyes, put his hand to his head, and then looked around. But when he saw Christine bending over him with tearful eyes, and realized how tenderly she had pillowed his aching head, he started up with a deep flush of pleasure, and said: “Do not be alarmed, Miss Ludolph; I was only stunned for a moment. Where is the thief?”

“Oh, they let him escape,” said Christine, indignantly.

“Shame!” cried Dennis, regaining his feet rather unsteadily.

“Wal, stranger, a good many wrongs to-night must go unrighted.”

The poor girl who had been robbed sat on the sands swaying backing and forth, wringing her hands, and crying that she had lost everything.

“Well, my poor friend, that is about the case with the most of us. We may be thankful that we have our lives. Here is my coat,” for her shoulders and neck were bare; “and if you will come down to the lake this lady,” pointing to Christine, “will bathe the place where the brute struck you.”

“Shall I not give up my shawl to some of these poor creatures?” asked Christine.

“No, Miss Ludolph, I do not know how long we may be kept here; but I fear we shall suffer as much from cold as from heat, and your life might depend upon keeping warm.”

“I will do whatever you bid me,” she said, looking gratefully at him.

“That is the way to feel and act toward God,” he said, gently.

But with sudden impetuosity she answered: “I cannot see what He has just permitted to happen before my eyes. Right has not triumphed, but the foulest wrong.”

“You do not see the end, Miss Ludolph.”

“But I must judge from what I see.”

After she had bathed the poor girl’s face, comforted and reassured her, Dennis took up the conversation again and found Christine eager to listen. Pausing every few moments to throw water over his companion, he said: “Faith is beyond reason, beyond knowledge, though not contrary to them. You are judging as we do not judge about the commonest affairs–from a few isolated, mysterious facts, instead of carefully looking the subject all over. You pass by what is plain and well understood to what is obscure, and from that point seek to understand Christianity. Every science has its obscure points and mysteries, but who begins with those to learn the science? Can you ignore the fact that millions of highly intelligent people, with every motive to know the truth, have satisfied themselves as to the reality of our faith? Our Bible system of truth may contain much that is obscure, even as the starry vault has distances that no eye or telescope can penetrate, and as this little earth has mysteries that science cannot solve, but there is enough known and understood to satisfy us perfectly. Let me assure you, Miss Ludolph, that Christianity rests on broad truths, and is sustained by arguments that no candid mind can resist after patiently considering them.”

She shook her head, silenced perhaps, but not satisfied.

CHAPTER XLV

“PRAYER IS MIGHTY”–CHRISTINE A CHRISTIAN

The day was now declining, and the fire in that part of the city opposite them had so spent itself that they were beginning to have a little respite from immediate danger. The fiery storm of sparks and cinders was falling mostly to the northward.

Dennis now ventured to sit down almost for the first time, for he was wearied beyond endurance. The tremendous danger and excitements, and the consciousness of peril to the one most dear to him, had kept him alert long after he ought to have had rest, but overtaxed nature now asserted its rights, and the moment the sharp spur of danger was removed he was overpowered by sleep.

Christine spoke to him as he sat near, but even to her (a thing he could not have imagined possible) he returned an incoherent reply.

“My poor friend, you do indeed need rest,” said she, in kindest accents.

He heard her voice like a sweet and distant harmony in a dream, swayed a moment, and would have fallen over in utter unconsciousness on the sands, had she not glided to his side and caught his head upon her lap.

In the heavy stupor that follows the utmost exhaustion, Dennis slept hour after hour. The rest of the day was a perfect blank to him. But Christine, partially covering and shading his face with the edge of her shawl, bent over him as patient in watching as he had been brave in her deliverance. It was beautiful to see the features once so cold and haughty, now sweet with more than womanly tenderness. There upon that desolate beach, cold, hungry, homeless, shelterless, she was happier than she had been for months. But she trembled as she thought of the future; everything was so uncertain. She seemed involved in a labyrinth of dangers and difficulties from which she could see no escape. She knew that both store and home had gone, and probably most, if not all, of her father’s fortune. She felt that these losses might greatly modify his plans, and really hoped that they would lead him to remain in this country. She felt almost sure that he would not go back to Germany a poor man, and to remain in America was to give her a chance of happiness, and happiness now meant life with him over whom she bent. For a long time she had felt that she could give up all the world for him, but now existence would scarcely be endurable without him. In proportion to the slowness with which her love had been kindled was its intensity–the steady, concentrated passion of a strong, resolute nature, for the first time fully aroused. All indecision passed from her mind, and she was ready to respond whenever he should speak; but woman’s silence sealed her lips, and more than maiden delicacy masked her heart. While she bent over him with an expression that, had he opened his eyes, might have caused him to imagine for a moment that his sleep had been death, and he had wakened in heaven, yet he must needs awake to find that the look and manner of earth had returned. Her sensitive pride made her guarded even in expressing her gratitude, and she purposed to slip his head off upon her shawl whenever he showed signs of awakening, so that he might believe that the earth only had been his resting-place.

But now in his unconsciousness, and unnoted by all around, indeed more completely isolated by the universal misery and apathy about her than she could have been in her own home, with a delicious sense of security, she bent her eyes upon him, and toyed daintily with the curling locks on his brow. Whatever the future might be, nothing should rob her of the strange, unexpected happiness of this opportunity to be near him, purchased at such cost.

As she sat there and saw the fire rush and roar away to the northward, and the sun decline over the ruins of her earthly fortune, she thought more deeply and earnestly of life than ever before. The long, heavy sleep induced by the opiate had now taken away all sense of drowsiness, and never had her mind been clearer. In the light of the terrible conflagration many things stood out with a distinctness that impressed her as nothing had ever done before. Wealth and rank had shrivelled to their true proportions, and she said, half aloud:–

“That which can vanish in a night in flame and smoke cannot belong to us, is not a part of us. All that has come out of the crucible of this fire is my character, myself. It is the same with Mr. Fleet; but comparing his character with mine, how much richer he is! What if there is a future life, and we enter into it with no other possession than our character? and that which is called soul or spirit is driven forth from earth and the body as we have just been from our wealth and homes? I can no longer coolly and contemptuously ignore as superstition what he believes. He is not superstitious, but calm, fearless, and seemingly assured of something that as yet I cannot understand. One would think that there must be reality in his belief, for it sustains him and others in the greatest of trials. The hymn he sang was like a magnet introduced among steel filings mingled with this sand. The mere earth cannot move, but the steel is instinct with life. So, while many of us could not respond, others seemed inspired at the name of Jesus with new hope and courage, and cried to the Nazarene as if He could hear them. Why don’t people cry for help to other good men who lived in the dim past, and whose lives and deeds are half myth and half truth? why to this one man only? for educated Catholics no longer pray to the saints.”

Then her thoughts reverted to Mr. Ludolph.

“Poor father!” said she; “how will he endure these changes? We have not felt and acted toward each other as we ought. He is now probably anxious beyond measure, fearing that I perished in my sleep, and so I should have done, had it not been for this more than friend that I have so wronged. Oh, that I could make amends! I wonder–oh, I wonder if he has any spark of love left for me? He seems kind, even tender, but he is so to every one–he saved Miss Brown–“

But here a most violent interruption took place. Christine, in the complete absorption of her thoughts, had not noticed that a group of rough men and women near by, who had been drinking all day, had now become intoxicated and violent. They were pushing and staggering, howling and fighting, in reckless disregard of the comfort of others, and before she knew it she was in the midst of a drunken brawl. One rough fellow struck against her, and another trod on Dennis, who started up with a cry of pain. In a moment he comprehended the situation, and, snatching up Christine and the shawl, he pushed his way out of the melee with his right arm, the wretches striking at him and one another aimlessly in their fury; while both men and women used language that was worse than their blows. After a brief struggle, Dennis and Christine extricated themselves, and made their way northward up the beach till they found a place where the people seemed quiet.

Dennis’s sudden awakening had revealed to him that his head had been pillowed, and it seemed such a kind and thoughtful act on Christine’s part that he could scarcely believe it; at the same time he was full of shame and self-reproach that by his sleep he had left her unguarded, and he said: “Miss Ludolph, I hope you will pardon you recreant knight, who slept while you were in danger; but really I could not help it.”

“It is I who must ask pardon,” replied Christine, warmly. “After your superhuman exertions, your very life depended on rest. But I made a wretched watcher–indeed I have lost confidence in myself every way. To tell the truth, Mr. Fleet, I was lost in thought, and with your permission I would like to ask you further about two things you said this morning. You asserted that you knew God loved you, and that Christianity was sustained by arguments that no candid mind could resist. What are those arguments? and how can you know such a comforting thing as the love of God?”

His eyes lighted up in his intense delight that she should again voluntarily recur to this subject, and he hoped that God was leading her to a knowledge of Him, and that he, in answer to his own and his mother’s prayers, might be partially instrumental in bringing the light. Therefore he said, earnestly: “Miss Ludolph, this is scarcely the time and place to go over the evidences of Christianity. When in happy security I hope you may do this at your leisure, and am sure you will be convinced, for I believe that you honestly wish the truth. But there is no need that you should wait and look forward into the uncertain future for this priceless knowledge. The father will not keep his child waiting who tries to find him. God is not far from any one of us. When our Lord was on earth, He never repulsed those who sought Him in sincerity, and He is the true manifestation of God.

“Moreover,” he continued, reverently, “God is now on earth as truly as when Christ walked the waves of Galilee, or stood with the life-giving word upon His lips at the grave of His friend Lazarus. The mighty Spirit of God now dwells among men to persuade, help, and lead them into all truth, and I believe He is guiding you. This Divine Spirit can act as directly on your mind as did Christ’s healing hand when He touched blind eyes and they saw, and palsied bodies and they sprung into joyous activity.”

Under his eager, earnest words, Christine’s eyes also lighted up with hope, but after a moment her face became very sad, and she said, wearily, “Mystery! mystery! you are speaking a language that I do not understand.”

“Can you not understand this: ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’? and that the Bible tells us that His Son did, in very truth, die that we might live?”

“Yes, yes, I know that the Bible seems to teach all that, but there must be some mistake about it. Why should an all-powerful God take such a costly, indirect way of accomplishing His purpose when a word would suffice?”

“We will not discuss God’s reasons; I think they are beyond us. But imagining the Bible story to be true, even though you do not believe it, is not the love of God revealed to us through His son, Jesus Christ?”

“Yes, it is the very extravagance of disinterested love, So much so that my reason revolts at it. It is contrary to all my ideas of Deity and power.”

“Pardon me, Miss Ludolph, for saying it, but I think your ideas of Deity are borrowed more from mythology and human greatness than from the Bible. Let your reason stand aside a moment; this is not contrary to it, but beyond it. Imagining the Bible story true, can you not wish it true? If the man who died on Calvary out of love for you I and for us all is also God, would you fear to trust yourself to Him? Could you distrust One who loved you well enough to die for you?”

“No! no, indeed! if I only could believe it, no! But how can I ever be sure it is true? I am sure of nothing. I am not sure there is a God. I am not sure the Bible is more than human in its character. I feel as if my feet stood out upon those shifting waves, and as if there were nothing certain or stable.”

“But in part you know the truth, Miss Ludolph, though you do not believe it, and I believe that the God of whom we have spoken _can directly reveal Himself to you_ and make His truth as real to you as it is to me.”

“Mr. Fleet,” cried Christine, “if I could believe as you do, I should be the happiest of the happy, for I should feel that, however much I suffered in this brief life, in the existence beyond I should be more than compensated;” and covering her tearful face with her hands she moaned, as if it were wrung from her, “I have suffered so much, and there seemed no remedy!”

Dennis’s feelings were also deeply touched, and the dew of sympathy gathered in his own eyes. In the gentlest accents be said, “Oh, that you could trust that merciful, mighty One who invites all the heavy laden to come to Him for rest!”

She looked up and saw his sympathy, and was greatly moved. In faltering tones she said: “You feel for me, Mr. Fleet. You do not condemn me in my blindness and unbelief. I cannot trust Him, because I am not sure He exists. If there was such a God I would gladly devote my whole being to Him; but I trust _you_, and will do anything you say.”

“Will you kneel on these sands with me in prayer to Him?” he asked, earnestly.

She hesitated, trembled, but at last said, “Yes.”

He took her hand as if they were brother and sister, and they kneeled together on the desolate beach. The glow of sunset was lost in the redder glow of the fire that smouldered all over the ruins, and still raged in the northwest, and the smoke and gathering gloom involved them in obscurity.

Though the weary, apathetic fugitives regarded them not, we believe that angelic forms gathered round, and that the heart of the Divine Father yearned toward His children.

When they rose, after a simple prayer from Dennis, in which he pleaded almost as a child might with an earthly father, Christine trembled like a leaf, and was very pale, but her face grew tearless, quiet, and very sad. Dennis still held her hand in the warm, strong grasp of sympathy. Gently she withdrew it, and said, in a low, despairing tone: “It is all in vain. There is no answer. Your voice has been lost in the winds and waves.”

“Wait the King’s time,” said he, reverently.

“You addressed him as Father. Would a good father keep his child waiting?”

“Yes, sometimes He does; He is also King.”

After a moment she turned to him the saddest face he ever looked upon, and said, gently, again giving him her hand, “Mr. Fleet, you have done your best for me, and I thank you all the same.”

He was obliged to turn away to hide his feelings. Silently they again sat down on the beach together. Weariness and something like despair began to tell on Christine, and Dennis trembled when he thought of the long night of exposure before her. He bent his face into his hands and prayed as he had never prayed before. She looked at him wistfully, and knew he was pleading for her; but she now believed it was all in vain. The feeling grew upon her that belief or unbelief was a matter of education and temperament, and that the feelings of which Dennis spoke were but the deceptive emotions of our agitated hearts. To that degree that the Divine love seemed visionary and hopeless, she longed for him to speak of his own, if in truth it still existed, that she could understand and believe in. If during what remained of life she could only drink the sweetness of that, she felt it was the best she could hope for–and then the blank of nothingness.

But he prayed on, and with something of his mother’s faith seemed at last, as it were, in the personal presence of Christ. With an importunity that would not be denied, he entreated for her who despaired at his side.

At last, putting her hand lightly on his arm, she said: “Mr. Fleet, waste no more time on me. From the groans I hear, some poor woman is sick or hurt. Perhaps you can do some real good by seeing to her needs.”

He rose quietly, feeling that in some way God would answer, and that he must patiently wait.

Going up the beach a short distance he found a German woman lying just on the edge of the water. In answer to his questions, he learned from her broken English that she was sick and in pain. A sudden thought struck him. In seeking to help another, might not Christine find help herself, and in the performance of a good deed, might not the Author of all good reveal Himself? Returning to her, he said: “Miss Ludolph, the poor woman you have heard is sick and alone. She is German, and you can speak to her and comfort her as only a woman can.”

Christine went at once, though with little confidence in her powers. Indeed it was, perhaps, the first visit of charity and mercy she had ever made. But she would have done anything he asked, and determined to do her best. She helped the poor creature further up from the water, and then, taking her hands, spoke to her soothingly and gently in her native tongue.

“Heaven and all the angels bless your sweet face for taking pity on a poor lone body, and so they will too,” is the free rendering of her grateful German.

“Would you please say a little prayer for a lone, sick body?” she asked, after a little while.

Christine hesitated a moment, and then thought: “Why not? if it will be of any comfort to the poor thing. It can do neither of us harm.”

Dennis saw her kneel at the woman’s side, lift her white face to heaven, and her lips move. Her attitude was unmistakably that of prayer. He could scarcely believe his eyes.

Her petition was brief and characteristic: “O God–if there is a God–help this poor creature!”

Then Dennis saw her start up and glance around in a strange, bewildered manner. Suddenly she clasped her hands and looked up with an ecstatic, thrilling cry: “There is! there is! God lives and loves me, I feel, I know, and therefore I may hope and live.” Turning to the still raging flames, she exclaimed: “Burn on with your fiery billows, I do not fear you now! I am safe, safe forever! Oh, how can I ever love and praise Thee enough!”

Then, springing to Dennis’s side, she took both his hands in hers, and said: “Mr. Fleet, you have saved my life again and again, and I am, oh, how grateful! but in leading me to this knowledge you have made me your debtor for evermore. God does live, and I believe now He loves even me.”

As the glare of the fire fell on her face, he was awed and speechless at its expression. From its ecstatic joy and purity it seemed that the light of heaven, instead of her burning home, was illumining it.

At last he said, brokenly, “Thank God! thank God! my many, many prayers are answered!”

The look of love and gratitude she gave him will only find its counterpart in heaven, when the saved beam upon those who led them to the Saviour. The whole of her strong womanly soul, thoroughly aroused, was in her face, and it shone like that of an angel.

To Dennis, with the force of fulfilled prophecy, recurred his mother’s words, and unconsciously he spoke them aloud: “PRAYER is MIGHTY.”

CHAPTER XLVI

CHRISTINE’S GRAVE

After a moment Christine returned to her charge and said, gently, “I think I can take better care of you now.”

The poor woman looked at her in a bewildered way, half fearing she had lost her senses. But there was that in Christine’s tone and manner now that went like sunlight and warmth to the heart, and in broadest German the grateful creature was soon blessing her again and again, and Christine felt that she was blessed beyond even her wildest dreams.

Dennis now felt that she must have food and rest. She appeared, in the ghostly light of the distant flames, so pale and spirit-like, that he almost feared she would slip away to heaven at once, and he began looking for some one stronger, older, and more suitable, to take her place. At a little distance further north he at last found a stout German woman sitting with her two children on a large feather bed, the sole relic of her household goods. Dennis acquainted her with the case, and she soon took the matter out of his and Christine’s hands in a very satisfactory way.

To the south and west opportunity of escape was utterly cut off; eastward were the waters of the lake, so that their only chance was to push northward. After making their way slowly for a short distance among the thickly scattered groups and the varied articles that had been dragged to the shore for safety, Dennis thought he heard a familiar voice.

“Dr. Arten!” he cried.

“Hallo! who wants me?” answered the good old physician, bustling up in rather incongruous costume, consisting of a dress coat, white vest, red flannel drawers, and a very soiled pair of slippers.

“Oh, doctor! the very sight of you inspires hope and courage.”

“Surely a young fellow like you can be in no want of those articles?”

“If he is lacking,” cried Christine, “it must be for the reason that he has given hope and courage to every one he has met, and so has robbed himself.”

“Heigho!” exclaimed the doctor, “you here?”

“Yes, thanks to the heroism of Mr. Fleet.”

“Fleet, is that all you have saved from the fire?” asked the doctor, with a humorous twinkle, pointing to Christine.

“I am well satisfied,” said Dennis, quietly, but with rising color.

“I should have perished, had not Mr. Fleet come to my rescue,” continued Christine, warmly, glad of an opportunity to express a little of her gratitude.

The doctor turned his genial, humorous eye on her and said: “Don’t be too grateful, Miss Ludolph; he is a young man, and only did his duty. Now if I had been so fortunate you might have been as grateful as you pleased.”

It was Christine’s turn to grow rather rosier than even the red fire warranted, but she said, “You would have your joke, doctor, if the world were burning up.”

“Yes, and after it burned up,” he replied. “What do you think of that, Miss Ludolph, with your German scepticism?”

Tears came in Christine’s eyes, and she said, in a low tone, “I am glad to say that I have lost my German scepticism in the fire also.”

“What!” cried the doctor, seizing both her hands in his hearty way. “Will you accept of our Christian superstition?”

“I think I have accepted your glorious Christian truth, and the thought makes me very happy.”

“Well, now I can almost say, Praise God for the fire, though old Dr. Arten must commence again where the youngsters are who kick up their heels in their office all day.”

With professional instinct he slipped his finger on Christine’s pulse, then rummaged in his pocket and soon drew out some powders, and in his brusque way made her take one.

“Oh, how bitter!” she exclaimed.

“That is the way the ladies treat me,” began the merry bachelor: “not an ounce of gratitude when I save their lives. But let a young fellow like Fleet come along and get them out of danger by mere brute strength, instead of my delicate, skilful way, and language breaks down with their thanks. Very well, I shall have compensation–I shall present my bill before long. And now, young man, since you have set out to rescue my little friend here, you had better carry the matter through, for several reasons which I need not urge. Your best chance is to make your way northward, and then continue around the west, where you can find food and shelter;” and with a hearty grasp of the hand, the brave, genial old man wished them “God speed!”

Dennis told him of the poor German woman, and then pushed on in the direction indicated. But Christine was growing weak and exhausted. At last they reached the Catholic cemetery. It was crowded with fugitives and the fire to the northwest still cut off all escape, even if Christine’s strength had permitted further exertion. It was now approaching midnight, and she said, wearily: “Mr. Fleet, I am very sorry, but I fear I cannot take another step. The powder Dr. Arten gave me strengthened me for a time, but its effect is passing away, and I feel almost paralyzed with fatigue. I am not afraid to stay here, or indeed anywhere now.”

“It seems a very hard necessity that you should have to remain in such a place, Miss Ludolph, but I see no help for it. We are certainly as well off as thousands of others, and so I suppose ought not to complain.”

“I feel as if I could never complain again, Mr. Fleet. I only hope my father is as safe and as well as we are. I cannot tell you how my heart goes out toward him now that I see everything in a different light. I have not been a true daughter, and I do long to make amends. He surely has escaped, don’t you think?”

“Mr. Ludolph was possessed of unusual sagacity and prudence,” said Dennis, evasively. “What any man could do, he could. And now, Miss Ludolph, I will try to find you a resting-place. There are such crowds here that I think we had better go nearer that side, where early in the evening the fire drove people away.”

The cemetery had not been used of late years, and many of the bodies had been removed. This caused excavations here and there, and one of these from which the gathered leaves and grass had been burned, Dennis thought might answer for Christine’s couch, as in the hollow of this vacant and nearly filled grave she would be quite sheltered from the wind, and the sand was still warm from the effects of the fire. To his surprise she made no objection.

“I am so weary that I can rest anywhere,” she said, “and a grave is not to me what it was once.”

He arranged her shawl so that it might be mattress, pillow, and covering, and wrapped her up.

“And how will you endure the long, cold hours, my friend?” she asked, looking up most sympathetically.

“Thanks to your kindness, I had such a good sleep this afternoon that I feel strong and rested,” he replied, with a smile.

“I fear you say so to put my mind at rest;” but even as she spoke her eyes closed and she went to sleep like a tired and trusting child. As with Dennis a few hours before, the limit of nature’s endurance had been reached, and the wealthy, high-born Miss Ludolph, who on Sabbath night had slept in the midst of artistic elegance and luxury, now, on Monday night, rested in a vacant grave under the open and storm-gathering sky. Soon–to be accurate, at two o’clock on the morning of Tuesday–rain began to fall. But, with all the discomfort it brought, never had rain been more welcome.

Christine shivered in her sleep, and Dennis looked around vainly for some additional covering. The thronging fugitives were all in a similar plight, and their only course was simply to endure till some path of escape opened.

The night was indeed a long one to him. At first excitement and happiness kept him awake and unconscious of time and discomfort. But he soon felt how weary and hungry he was, for he had eaten nothing since his slight supper on Sabbath evening. The heat of the fire perceptibly lessened as the rain began falling, and without his coat Dennis was soon chilled to the bone. On every side he heard moans of discomfort, and he knew that he had far more reason to endure patiently than many near him. He tried to keep himself warm by walking around, but at last he grew too weary for that, and sat, a patient, cowering watcher, at the head of Christine’s weird couch, listening sadly at times to the pitiful crying of little children and the sighs and groans of older sufferers.

At last the light of welcome day streaked the eastern horizon, and Christine opened her eyes in a bewildered way, but, on seeing him swaying backward and forward with half-closed eyes, sprang up and said, “And have you sat and watched there all the long night?”

“I hope you feel rested and better, Miss Ludolph,” he replied, startled from drowsiness by her voice.

“It has been raining, too. I fear you are wet through. Oh, how much you must have suffered on my account!”

“I imagine you are as wet as I am, Miss Ludolph. This has been a very democratic experience for you. We are all about alike in this strange camping-ground.”

“No; your kindness made me quite comfortable. Indeed, I never slept better. And you, without any coat or shelter, have watched patiently hour after hour.”

“Well, you did as much for me yesterday afternoon, so we are quits.”

“I think there is a great difference,” she said. “And remember what a watcher I made; I let those drunken creatures run over you.”

“I don’t see how you could have helped it,” said he, laughing. “That you should have cared for me as you did was a favor that I never expected,” he added, blushing.

She blushed too, but made no reply; at the same time she was vexed with herself that she did not. Dennis, with a lover’s blindness, misunderstood her silence, and thought that, as a friend, she was more grateful than he could wish, but he must speak in no other character.

Then he remembered that it would be dishonorable to urge his suit under the circumstances; it would be a source of inexpressible pain to her, with her strong sense of obligation, to put aside expressions of his deeper regard, and he resolved to avoid if possible any manifestations of his feelings. While she was dependent upon him he would act the part of a brother toward her, and if his human love could never find its consummation, he would bear his loss as patiently as possible. But in spite of himself a tinge of sadness and restraint came into his manner, and Christine sighed to herself, “If _he_ only knew, and _I_ only knew, just the truth, how much happier we might be!” There was a general movement now in the strangely assorted multitude. The fire had swept everything away so completely on the north side that there were not hot blazing ruins to prevent crossing. Accordingly men came pouring over, looking for their families. On every side were cries of joy on recognition of those whom fear and terrible forebodings had buried under the blackened remains of once happy homes. But mingled with exclamations of joy were sobs and wails of anguish, as some now realized in the lapsing hours that absent members of the household were lost.

Christine looked in vain for her father; at last Dennis said: “Miss Ludolph, do you feel equal to the effort of crossing to the west side? You must be faint with hunger, and there only can we hope for help.”

“Oh, yes! let us go at once, for your sake as well as mine;” for she saw that his long fasting and great fatigue had made him very haggard.

They urged their way across the burned district as fast as their exhausted state would permit, carefully avoiding burning brands that still lay in the street.

“I hope you will have patience with me in my slow progress,” said Christine, “for I feel as I imagine Rip Van Winkle must have done, after his twenty years’ nap.”

“I think you have borne up heroically, Miss Ludolph,” said Dennis, warmly.

“Oh, no! I am not in the least heroic, but I confess that I am very hungry. I never knew what hunger was before. Well, I can now appreciate what must often be the condition of the poor, and hope not to be so forgetful of them hereafter.”

“I am glad to hear you say that you are hungry, Miss Ludolph, for it proves that with care you will rally after this dreadful exposure, and be your former self.”

“Ah! Mr. Fleet, I hope I shall never be my old self again. I shudder when I think what I was when you awakened me that dreadful night.”

“But I have feared,” said he, ever avoiding any reference to his own services, “that, though you might escape the fire, the exposure would be greater than you could endure. I trembled for you last night when it began to rain, but could find no additional covering.”

“No brother could be kinder or more thoughtful of me,” she said, turning upon him a glad, grateful face.

“That is it,” thought Dennis. “She hints to me what must be our relationship. She is the Baroness Ludolph, and is pledged to a future that I cannot share.”

But as he saw her gratitude, he resolved all the more resolutely not to put it to the hard test of refusing his love. A little later he unconsciously sighed wearily, and she looked at him wistfully.

“Oh, that I _knew_ if he felt toward me as he once did!” she said to herself.

They now reached the unscathed streets of the west side, which were already thronged with fugitives as hungry and gaunt as themselves. Mingling with this great strange tide of weak, begrimed, hollow-eyed humanity, they at last reached Dr. Goodwin’s beautiful church. Here already had begun the noble charity dispensed from that place during the days of want and suffering that followed.

CHAPTER XLVII

SUSIE WINTHROP

Waiting with multitudes of others, Christine and Dennis at last received an army biscuit (hardtack in the soldier’s vernacular) and a tin-cup of what resembled coffee. To him it was very touching to see how eagerly she received this coarse fare, proving that she was indeed almost famished. Too weak to stand, they sat down near the door on the sidewalk. A kind lady presently came and said, “If you have no place to go you will find it more comfortable in the church.”

They gladly availed themselves of her permission, as the thronged street was anything but pleasant.

“Mr. Fleet,” said Christine, “I am now going to take care of you in return for your care last night,” and she led him up to a secluded part of the church by the organ, arranged some cushions on a seat, and then continued: “As I have obeyed you, so you must now be equally docile. Don’t you dare move from that place till I call you;” and she left him.

He was indeed wearied beyond expression, and most grateful for a chance to rest. This refuge and the way it was secured seemed almost a heavenly experience, and he thought with deepest longing, “If we could always take care of each other, I should be perhaps too well satisfied with this earthly life.”

When after a little time Christine returned he was sleeping as heavily as he had done before upon the beach, but the smile his last thought occasioned still rested on his face.

For some little time she also sat near and rested, and her eyes sought his face as if a story were written there that she never could finish. Then she went to make inquiries after her father. But no one to whom she spoke knew anything about him.

Bread and other provisions were constantly arriving, but not fast enough to meet the needs of famishing thousands. Though not feeling very strong she offered her services, and was soon busily engaged. All present were strangers to her, but, when they learned from the inquiries for her father that she was Miss Ludolph, she was treated with deference and sympathy. But she assumed nothing, and as her strength permitted, during the day, she was ready for any task, even the humblest. She handed food around among the hungry, eager applicants, with such a sweet and pitying face that she heard many a murmured blessing. Her efforts were all the more appreciated as all saw that she too had passed through the fire and had suffered deeply. At last a kind, motherly lady said: “My dear, you look ready to drop. Here, take this,” and she poured out a glass of wine and gave her a sandwich; “now, go and find some quiet nook and rest. It’s your duty.”

“I have a friend who has suffered almost everything in saving me. He is asleep now, but he has had scarcely anything to eat for nearly three days, and I know he will be very hungry when he wakes.”

“Nothing to eat for three days! Why, you must take him a whole loaf, and this, and this,” cried the good lady, about to provision Dennis for a month.

“Oh, no,” said Christine, with a smile, “so much would not be good for him. If you will give me three or four sandwiches, and let me come for some coffee when he wakes, it will be sufficient;” and she carried what now seemed treasures to where Dennis was sleeping, and sat down with a happy look in her face.

The day had been full of sweet, trustful thoughts. She was conscious of a presence within her heart and all around that she knew was Divine, and in spite of her anxiety about her father and the uncertainty of the future, she had a rest and contentment of mind that she had never experienced before. Then she felt such a genuine sympathy for the sufferers about her, and found them so grateful when she spoke to them gently and kindly, that she wondered she had never before discovered the joy of ministering to others. She was entering a new world, and, though there might be suffering in it, the antidote was ever near, and the pleasures promised to grow richer, fuller, more satisfying, till they developed into the perfect happiness of heaven. But every Christian joy that was like a sweet surprise–every thrilling hope that pointed to endless progress in all that is best and noblest in life, instead of the sudden blank and nothingness that threatened but yesterday–and, above all, the animating consciousness of the Divine love which kept her murmuring, “My Saviour, my good, kind Heavenly Father,” all reminded her of him who had been instrumental in bringing about the wondrous change. Often during the day she would go and look at him, and could Dennis only have opened his eyes at such a moment, and caught her expression, no words would have been needed to assure him of his happiness.

The low afternoon sun shone in gold and crimson on his brow and face through the stained windows before he gave signs of waking, and then she hurried away to get the coffee hot from the urn.

She had hardly gone before he arose greatly refreshed and strengthened, but so famished that a roast ox would have seemed but a comfortable meal. His eye at once caught the sandwiches placed temptingly near.

“That is Miss Ludolph’s work,” he said; “I wonder if she has saved any for herself.” He was about to go and geek her when she met him with the coffee.

“Go back,” she said; “how dare you disobey orders?”

“I was coming to find you.”

“Well, that is the best excuse you could have made, but I am here; so sit down and drink this coffee and devour these sandwiches.”

“Not unless you share them with me.”

“Insubordinate! See here,” and she took out her more dainty provision from behind a seat and sat down opposite, in such a pretty, companionable way that he in his admiration and pleasure forgot his sandwiches.

“What is the matter?” she asked. “You are to eat the sandwiches, not me.”

“A very proper hint, Miss Ludolph; one might well be inclined to make the mistake.”

“Now that is a compliment worthy of the king of the Cannibal Islands.”

“Miss Ludolph,” said Dennis, looking at her earnestly, “you do indeed seem happy.”

A ray of light slanting through a yellow diamond of glass fell with a sudden glory upon her face, and in a tone of almost ecstasy she said: “Oh, I am so glad and grateful, when I realize what might have been, and what is! It seems that I have lost so little in this fire in comparison with what I have gained. And but for you I might have lost everything. How rich this first day of life, real, true life, has been! My Heavenly Father has been so kind to me that I cannot express it. And then to think how I have wronged Him all these years!”

“You have indeed learned the secret of true eternal happiness, Miss Ludolph.”

“I believe it–I feel sure of it. All trouble, all pain will one day pass away forever; and sometimes I feel as if I must sing for joy. I do so long to see my father and tell him. I fear he won’t believe it at first, but I can pray as you did, and it seems as if my Saviour would not deny me anything. And now, Mr. Fleet, when you have finished your lunch, I am going to ask one more favor, and then will dub you truest knight that ever served defenceless woman. You will find my father for me, for I believe you can do anything.”

Even in the shadow where he sat she caught the pained expression of his face.

She started up and grasped his arm.

“You know something,” she said; then added: “Do not be afraid to find my father now. When he knows what services you have rendered me, all estrangement, if any existed, will pass away.”

But he averted his face, and she saw tears gathering in his eyes.

“Mr. Fleet,” she gasped, “do you know anything I do not?”

He could hide the truth no longer. Indeed it was time she should learn it. Turning and taking her trembling hand, he looked at her so sadly and kindly that she at once knew her father was dead.

“Oh, my father!” she cried, in a tone of anguish that he could never forget, “you will never, never know. All day I have been longing to prove to you the truth of Christianity by my loving, patient tenderness, but you have died, and will never know,” she moaned, shudderingly.

He still held her hand–indeed she clung to his as to something that might help sustain her in the dark, bitter hour.

“Poor, poor father!” she cried; “I never treated him as I ought, and now he will never know the wealth of love I was hoping to lavish on him.” Then, looking at Dennis almost reproachfully, she said: “Could you not save him? You saved so many others.”

“Indeed I could not, Miss Ludolph; I tried, and nearly lost my life in the effort. The great hotel behind the store fell and crushed all in a moment.”

She shuddered, but at last whispered, “Why have you kept this so long from me?”

“How could I tell you when the blow would have been death? Even now you can scarcely bear it.”

“My little beginning of faith is sorely tried. Heavenly Spirit,” she cried, “guide me through this darkness, and let not doubt and unbelief cloud my mind again.”

“Such prayer will be answered,” said Dennis, in a deep, low tone.

They sat in the twilight in silence. He still held her hand, and she was sobbing more gently and quietly. Suddenly she asked, “Is it wrong thus to grieve over the breaking of an earthly tie?”

“No, not if you will say as did your Lord in His agony, ‘Oh, my Father, Thy will be done.'”

“I will try,” she said, softly, “but it is hard.”

“He is a merciful and faithful High Priest. For in that He Himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted.”

“Do you know that I think my change in feeling makes me grieve all the more deeply? Until to-day I never loved my father as I ought. It is the curse of unbelief to deaden everything good in the heart. Oh, I do feel such a great, unspeakable pity for him!”

“Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him.”

“Is that in the Bible?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“It is very sweet. He indeed must be my refuge now, for I am alone in the world.”

“He has said, ‘I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.’ I have passed through this sorrow so recently myself that I can sympathize with you as a fellow-sufferer.”

“True, true, you have,” she answered. “Is that the reason that Christ suffered with us–that we might know He sympathized with us?”

“Yes.”

“How unspeakably comforting is such sympathy, both human and divine! Tell me about your mother.”

“I fear I cannot without being unmanned. She was one of Heaven’s favorites, and I owe everything to her. I can tell you one thing, though, she prayed for you continually–even with her dying lips, when my faith had broken down.”

This touched Christine very deeply. At last she said, “I shall see her some day.”

“I wish you had seen her,” he continued very sadly, looking as if at a scene far away.

“You cannot wish it more than I. Indeed I would have called on her, had it not been for an unfortunate accident.”

He looked at her with some surprise, as if not understanding her remark, but said, “She greatly wished to see you before she died.”

“Oh, I wish I had known it!”

“Did you not know it?” he asked, in a startled manner.

“No, but I felt grateful to her, for I understood that she offered to take care of me in case I had the smallpox. I wanted to visit her very much, and at last thought I would venture to do so, but just then I sprained my ankle. I sent my maid to inquire, but fear she didn’t do my errand very well,” added Christine, looking down.

“She never came, Miss Ludolph.” Then he continued, eagerly: “I fear I have done you a great wrong. A little time before my mother died, she wrote you a line saying that she was dying and would like to see you. I did not know you could not come–I thought you would not.”

Crimson with shame and humiliation, Christine buried her burning cheeks in her hands and murmured, “I never received it.”

“And did you send the exquisite flowers and fruit?” he asked. “Ah, I see that you did. I am so glad–so very glad that I was mistaken! I sincerely ask your pardon for my unjust thoughts.”

“It is I who should ask pardon, and for a long time I have earnestly wished that I might find opportunity to do so. My conduct has been simply monstrous, but of late it has seemed worse than the reality. Everything has been against me. If you only knew–but–” (and her head bowed lower). Then she added, hastily, “My maid has been false, and I must have appeared more heartless than ever.” But, with biter shame and sorrow, she remembered who must have been the inspirer of the treachery, and, though she never spoke of it again, she feared that Dennis suspected it also. It was one of those painful things that must be buried, even as the grave closes over the frail, perishing body.

Let those who are tempted to a wicked, dishonorable deed remember that, even after they are gone, the knowledge of it may come to those who loved them, like an incurable wound.

Dennis’s resolution not to speak till Christine should be no longer dependent on him was fast melting away, as he learned that she had not been so callous and forgetful as she had seemed. But before he could add another word, a wild, sweet, mournful voice was heard singing:

“O fiery storm, wilt never cease? Thy burning hail falls on my heart; Bury me deep, that I in peace
May rest where death no more can part.”

In awed, startled tones they both exclaimed, “SUSIE WINTHROP!”

CHAPTER XLVIII

DOCTOR ARTEN STRUCK BY LIGHTNING

Hastening down into the body of the church, Dennis and Christine found Mrs. Leonard lying on some cushions in a pew. She was scantily clad, her sweet face scorched and blackened, and her beautiful hair almost crisped away.

Her husband was bending over her in an agony of mingled grief and joy. She had just been brought in from wandering aimlessly and alone quite out upon the prairie, singing in a low, plaintive way to herself words suggested by the sudden disaster that had temporarily robbed her of husband, of reason, and almost of life.

Dennis afterward learned from Professor Leonard that when first aroused they had escaped from the hotel, but, not realizing the danger, he had stepped back a moment at her request to get something she valued very much, and they had become separated.

“And thus at last I find the poor child,” he cried, with a look of agony.

Mrs. Leonard did not know any of them, but continued her low, plaintive singing.

Dr. Arten, who had found his way to the church as one of the centres, was soon in attendance, his benevolent face becoming the very embodiment of pity. The crowd were pushed back, and with other kind ladies Christine took charge of her poor unconscious friend, and all was done that skill and tender love could suggest. At last, under the doctor’s opiates, her low, weird singing ceased, and she slept, her husband holding her hand. The thronging fugitives were kept a little away, and Dr. Arten slept near, to be within call.

A lady asked Christine to go home with her, but she thanked her and said, “No, I would rather remain in the church near my friends.”

Dennis saw that she was greatly wearied. Taking her hand, he said: “Miss Ludolph, it is my turn to take care of you again. See, our friends are preparing a place there for the ladies to sleep. Please go to rest at once, for you do indeed need it.”

“I am very tired, but I know I could not sleep. How strange this life is! All day, the world, in spite of what has happened, seemed growing brighter. Now with the night has come the deeper darkness of sorrow. On every side pain and suffering seem to predominate, and to me there will ever be so much mystery in events like my father’s death and my friend Susie’s experience, that I know it will be hard to maintain a childlike faith.”

“God will help you to trust; you will not be left to struggle alone. Then remember you are His child, and earthly parents do much that little children cannot understand.”

With a faint smile she answered: “I fear I shall be one of those troublesome children that are ever asking why. All day it has seemed so easy to be a Christian, but already I learn that there will be times when I shall have to cling to my Saviour, instead of being carried forward in His arms. Indeed, I almost fear that I shall lose Him in the darkness.”

“But He will not lose you,” replied Dennis. “Since you are not sleepy, let me tell you a short Bible story.”

“Oh, do, please do, just as if I were a little child.”

“It is in the New Testament. Jesus had sent His disciples in a boat across the sea of Galilee, while He should go up alone on a mountain to pray. The night came, and with it a storm swept down against the disciples. The smooth sea was lashed into great foam-crested waves which broke over their little ship. They tugged hour after hour at the oars, but in vain. The night grew darker, the wind more contrary, the waves higher and more threatening, their arms wearied, and they may have feared that they would perish alone and without remedy in the black midnight. But we read that ‘He saw them toiling in rowing,’ though they knew it not. From the distant mountain side ‘He saw them’–marked every weary stroke of the oar, and every throb of fear. But at last, when they were most ready to welcome Him, when none could say, ‘We should have rowed through the storm alone,’ He came to them walking safely on the dark waves that threatened them with death, and said, ‘Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.’ Then they gladly received Him into the ship, and immediately the rough waves were hushed, and the keel of the boat grated on the beach toward which they had vainly rowed. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped Him, saying, ‘Of a truth thou art the Son of God.’

“Now it was on the evening of that very night that these same disciples had engaged in a scene of festivity. They had stood in the sunset on the mountain slope, and seen their Lord feed many thousand. Then all was peace, safety, and good cheer. Life changed as quickly for them as for you, but did not their Divine Master see them as truly in the stormy night as in the sunlight? Did He leave them to perish?

“He is watching you, Miss Ludolph, for He is ever the same; and before this stormy night of your sorrow passes away you will hear His voice, saying, ‘Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.'”

“Already I hear it,” she said, in a low, glad voice, smiling through her tears. “I can, I do trust Him, and the conflicting winds of doubt and fear are becoming still. Among all these homeless people there must be many sad, discouraged hearts. You have helped me so much; can you not say a word or sing something that will help them?”

Dennis thought a moment, and then, in a sweet, clear voice that penetrated every part of the large building, sang:

“Father in Heaven, the night is around us, Terror and danger our portion have been; We cry unto Thee, oh, save and defend us, Comfort the trembling, and pardon our sin.

“Hearts that are heavy, look onward and upward; Though wild was the storm that wrecked your loved homes, Faith lifts your sad glances hopefully heavenward, To mansions prepared with glory-crowned domes.

“Hearts that are breaking, whose lov’d ones have vanished, Swept down in the seething ocean of fire, E’en now they may rest where pain is all banished, And join their glad songs with the heavenly choir.

“Hearts that are groaning with life’s weary burden, Who fear to go forward, to sorrow a prey; Jesus invites you–‘Oh, come, heavy laden’; Leave sin at His feet, bear mercy away.”

After the first line there was a breathless hush; but, when he closed, low sobbings might be heard from many of the women, and in the dim light not a few tears shone in the eyes of manhood. Dennis’s voice was sympathetic in its character, and he had the power of throwing into it much feeling.

Christine was weeping quietly, but her tears now were like the warm spring rain as it falls on the precious seed. At last she said, “You have done these people much good.”

“To you belongs all the credit, for it was at your suggestion I sang.”

She shook her head, and then said, “Good-night, my friend, I shall never forget this day with its mingled experience; but I think, I hope, I shall never doubt God again;” and she went to her rest.

The light of the next day brought to view many hard realities, and chief among these was the bread question. Dennis was up with the dawn, and by eager inquiries sought to comprehend the situation. Some were gloomy and discouraged, some apathetic, and some determined, courageous, and hopeful; and to this last class he belonged.

Most thankful that he had come out of the fiery ordeal unscathed, he resolved to contribute his quota toward a new and better Chicago. Young, and sanguine in temperament, he already saw the city rise from its ashes in statelier proportions and richer prosperity. With a thrill of exultation he heard the report that some Napoleonic business men had already telegraphed for building material, and were even now excavating the hot ruins.

Christine had hardly joined him as he stood at the door when a gentleman entered and asked, “Who here are willing and able to work for fair wages?”

“I am at your service,” said Dennis, stepping forward promptly.

“You are a gentleman, sir,” said the speaker, impressed with the fact by Dennis’s bearing, though his hat and coat were gone; “I need laborers who can handle the pick and shovel.”

“I will work for less, then, till I can handle these tools as well as a laborer. There is no reason why I should eat the bread of charity a day longer, especially when so many need it more than I.”

“I said you were a gentleman; I now say you are a man, and that to me means a great deal more,” said the energetic stranger. “You shall have two dollars a day with the rest.”

He turned to Christine and said, almost proudly, “The supper you have to-night shall be yours also.”

“That is,” she replied, with a smile, “I shall live on your charity instead of that of some one else.”

His face grew sad at once, but he answered, as he went away, “I could not give you charity, Miss Ludolph.”

Christine saw that she had pained him, and was much vexed with herself. But his remark added to the hope and almost belief that she still held her old place in his heart, and she resolved to make amends in the evening for her unlucky speech.

With a smile she said to herself: “If he only knew that I would prefer the coarsest, scantiest fare provided by him to the most costly banquet, he would not have gone away with that long face. How rich life would be if I could commence it with him, and we struggle up together! Oh, Heaven, grant,” she sighed, looking earnestly upward, “that through these wonderful, terrible changes, I may climb the mountain at his side, as he so graphically portrayed it in his picture!”

Mrs. Leonard still slept, and her husband in an agony of anxiety watched at her side. At last, a little before midday, she opened her eyes and said, in her natural tone: “Why, John, I must have greatly overslept. Where am I?” and then, as her husband fairly sobbed for joy, she started up and said, hurriedly: “What is the matter? What has happened?”

“Oh, be calm!” whispered Christine to the professor. “Everything depends on keeping her quiet.” Then she bent over her friend, and said: “Do not be alarmed, Susie; you are now safe and well, and so is your husband. But you have been ill, and for his sake and your own you must keep quiet.”

She turned inquiringly to her husband, who said, more calmly, “It is all true, and if you can only be careful we can go back to Boston as well as ever.”

“I will do anything you say, John; but why am I in a church?”

“You were taken sick in the street, and this was the nearest place to bring you.”

“Oh, dear! I have had such strange, dreadful dreams. I am so glad they were only dreams, and you are here with me;” and she lay quietly holding her husband’s hands and looking contentedly in his face. It was evident she was herself again, and much better.

Dr. Arten soon after came and said, cheerily, “All right! all right! will have you out in a day or two as good as new, and then, Miss Ludolph, you will see how much more grateful she is to the old doctor than you were.”

“You must present your bill,” replied Christine, with a smile.

“May I?” retorted the doctor, wiping his lips.

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” cried Christine; adding, quickly, “when I welcome you to my own home you may.”

“An old maid’s hall, I suppose.”

“It will be an orphan’s home, at least,” said Christine, softly and sadly.

Tears filled the old man’s eyes, and putting his arm around her he drew her to him, saying, as he stroked her drooping head: “Poor child! poor child! I did not know. But you shall never want a protector while the old doctor is above ground. As far as possible I will be a father to you;” and Christine knew she had found a friend as true and strong as steel, and she buried her face on his shoulder and cried as trustingly as his own child might have done.

“Oh, Christine!” cried Mrs. Leonard, “I am so sorry for you!”

At the voice of her old friend she at once rallied, and, trying to smile through her tears, said, “God has been so much better to me than I deserved that I have only gratitude when I think of myself; but my poor father–” and again she covered her face and wept.

“Christine, come here,” said Mrs. Leonard, softly, and she put her arms around the weeping girl. “You spoke of God’s being good to you. Have you in truth found and learned to trust Him?”

“Yes,” she replied, eagerly, joy and peace coming out in her face like the sun shining through clouds and rain. Then with bowed head she whispered low: “The one I wronged on earth led me to the One I wronged in heaven, and both have forgiven me. Oh, I am so glad, so happy!”

“Then you have seen Mr. Fleet.”

“Yes, he saved my life again and again, but in teaching me how to find my Saviour, he has done far more for me.”

“And you will not wrong him any more, will you, Christine? He has loved you so long and faithfully.”

In reply she lifted an eager face to her friend and said, “Do you think he can love me still after my treatment of him?”

“Give him a chance to tell you,” said Mrs. Leonard, with a half-mischievous smile. “Has he not shown his feelings?”

“He has treated me more as a brother might have done, and yet he is so very respectful and deferential–I hope–but I am not perfectly sure–and then he seems under some restraint.”

Mrs. Leonard said, musingly: “He knows that you are Baroness Ludolph. I told him last week, for I thought he ought to know, and the fact of your approaching departure for Europe has been no secret of late. He thinks you are pledged to a future in which he cannot share; and in your grateful, dependent condition he would not cause you the pain of refusing him. I think that is just where he stands,” she concluded, with a woman’s mastery of the science of love, and taking almost as much interest in her friend’s affair as she had felt in her own. To most ladies this subject has a peculiar fascination, and, having settled their own matters, they enter with scarcely less zest on the task of helping others arrange theirs. Mrs. Leonard rallied faster under the excitement of this new interest than from the doctor’s remedies.

After a few moments’ thought Christine said, decidedly: “All that nonsense about the Baroness Ludolph is past forever–burned up in the fire with many things of more value. I have been fed too long on the husks of human greatness and ambition to want any more of them. They never did satisfy me, and in the light and heat of the terrific ordeal through which I have just passed they shrivelled into utter nothingness. I want something that I cannot lose in a whiff of smoke and flame, and I think I have found it. Henceforth I claim no other character than that of a simple Christian girl.” Then bowing her head on her friend’s shoulder she added, in a whisper, “If I could climb to true greatness by Mr. Fleet’s side, as he portrayed it in his picture, it seems to me heaven would begin at once.”

The doctor, who had taken the professor aside, now joined them, and said: “Mrs. Leonard, you have only to take reasonable care of yourself, and you will soon recover from this shock and exposure. I wish all my patients were doing as well.”

She replied with a smile, taking her husband’s hand: “Since I have found my old Greek here, with his learned spectacles, I am quite myself, and I feel as if I were only playing invalid.”

“You may have slept in a church before,” said the doctor, with a twinkle in his eye, “and you must do so again. But no one will thunder at you from the pulpit this time, so I leave you in peace and security, and to-night will be within call.”

Christine followed him to the lobby of the church, when the irrepressible joker could not forbear saying: “Now let me give you a little paternal advice. Don’t be too grateful to that young Fleet. He only did his duty, and of course doesn’t deserve any special–“

Christine, with flushing cheeks, interrupted him as if she had not heard: “Doctor, how good and kind you are! Here you are off without any rest to look after the sick and suffering, and you seem to bring health and hope wherever you go.”

“Yes, yes; but I send my bill in too–mind that.” (Some of his poorer patients never received any, and he, when twitted of the fact, would mutter, roughly, “Business oversight–can’t attend to everything.”)

Christine looked for a moment at the face so inspiring in its hearty benevolence, and with an impulse, so unlike the cold, haughty girl of old, sprang forward, threw her arms around his neck, and gave him a kiss which he declared afterward was like a mild stroke of lightning, and said, “And there is the first instalment of what I owe you.”

The old gentleman looked as if he decidedly liked the currency, and with moistened eyes that he vainly tried to render humorous, he raised his finger impressively in parting, and said, “Don’t you ever get out of debt to me.”

CHAPTER XLIX

BILL CRONK’S TOAST

After all, it was a long day to Christine. Tears would start from her eyes at the thought of her father, but she realized that the only thing for her to do was to shroud his memory in a great, forgiving pity, and put it away forever. She could only turn from the mystery of his life and death–the mystery of evil–to Him who taketh away the sin of the world. There was no darkness in that direction. She busied herself with Mrs. Leonard, and the distribution of food to others, till six o’clock, and then she stood near the door to watch till her true knight should appear in his shirt-sleeves, with a shovel on his shoulder, and an old burned, tattered felt hat on his head, instead of jewelled crest and heron plume.

Dennis had gone to his work not very hopeful. He knew Christine would be his grateful friend while she lived, and would perhaps even regard him as a brother, but all this might be and still she be unable to respond to his deeper feelings. Moreover, he knew she was Baroness Ludolph, and might be heiress of such titles and estates in Germany as would require that she should go at once to secure them; and so she seemed clearly to pass beyond his sphere.

As he shovelled the hot bricks and cinders hour after hour among other laborers, the distance between himself and the Baroness Ludolph seemed to increase; and when, begrimed and weary, he sat down to eat his dinner of a single sandwich saved from breakfast (for as yet he had no money), the ruins around him were quite in keeping with his feelings. He thought most regretfully of his two thousand dollars and burned picture. The brave, resolute spirit of the morning had deserted him. He did not realize that few men have lived who could be brave and hopeful when weary and hungry, and fewer still, when, in addition, they doubted the favor of the lady of their love.

The work of the afternoon seemed desperately hard and long, but with dogged persistency Dennis held his own with the others till six, and in common with them received his two dollars. Whether Christine would accept the supper he brought or not, he determined to fulfil his promise and bring one. Wearily he trudged off to the west side, in order to find a store. No one who met him would have imagined that this plodding laborer was the artist who the week before had won the prize and title of genius.

If he had been purchasing a supper for himself, he would doubtless have been sensible about it; but one that the Baroness Ludolph might share was a different matter. He bought some very rich cake, a can of peaches, a box of sardines, some fruit, and then his money gave out! But, with these incongruous and indigestible articles made up into one large bundle, he started for the church. He had gone but a little way when some one rushed upon him, and little Ernst clasped him round the neck and fairly cried for joy. Sitting on the sidewalk near were the other little Bruders, looking as forlorn and dirty as three motherless children could. Dennis stopped and sat down beside them (for he was too tired to stand), while Ernst told his story–how their mother had left them, and how she had been found so burned that she was recognized only by a ring (which he had) and a bit of the picture preserved under her body. They had been looking ever since to find him, and had slept where they could.

As Ernst sobbingly told his story the other children cried in doleful chorus, and Dennis’s tears fell fast too, as he realized how his humble friend had perished. He remembered her kindness to his mother and little sisters, and his heart acknowledged the claim of these poor little orphans. Prudence whispered, “You cannot afford to burden yourself with all these children,” and pride added, “What a figure you will make in presenting yourself before the Baroness Ludolph with all these children at your heels!” But he put such thoughts resolutely aside, and spoke like a brother; and when one of the children sobbed, “We so hungry!” out came the Baroness Ludolph’s fruit and cake, and nothing remained for Christine but the sardines and peaches, since these could not well be opened in the street. The little Bruders having devoured what seemed to them the ambrosia of the gods, he took the youngest in his arms, Ernst following with the others; and so they slowly made their way to the church where Christine was now anxiously waiting, with many surmises and forebodings at Dennis’s delay.

At last, in the dusk, the little group appeared at the church-door, and she exclaimed, “What has kept you so, Mr. Fleet?”

He determined to put the best face on the situation, and indulge in no heroics, so he said, “You could not expect such a body of infantry as this to march rapidly.”

“What!” she exclaimed, “have you brought all the lost children in the city back with you?”

“No, only those that fell properly to my care;” and in a few words he told their story.

“And do you, without a cent in the world, mean to assume the burden of these four children?” she asked, in accents of surprise.

He could not see her face, but his heart sank within him, for he thought that to her it would seem quixotic and become another barrier between them; but he answered, firmly: “Yes, till God, who has imposed the burden, removes it, and enables me to place them among friends in a good home. Mrs. Bruder, before she died, wrote to her family in Germany, telling her whole story. Relatives may take the children; if not, some way will be provided.”

“Mr. Fleet, I wonder at you,” was her answer. “Give me that child, and you bring the others.”

He wondered at her as he saw her take the child and imprint a kiss on the sleepy, dirty face; and Ernst, who had been eying her askance, crept timidly nearer when he saw the kiss, and whispered, “Perhaps her old outside heart has been burned away.”

They followed to a lobby of the lecture-room, and here she procured a damp towel and proceeded to remove the tear and dust stains from the round and wondering faces of the children. Having restored them to something of their original color, she took them away to supper, saying to Dennis, with a decided nod, “You stay here till I come for you.”

Something in her manner reminded him of the same little autocrat who had ordered him about when they arranged the store together. She soon returned with a basin of water and a towel, saying: “See what a luxury you secure by obeying orders. Now give an account of yourself, as every lady’s knight should on his return. How have you spent the day?”

He could not forbear laughing as he said: “My employment has been almost ludicrously incongruous with the title by which you honor me. I have been shovelling brick and mortar with other laborers.”

“All day?”

“All day.”

Her glance became so tender and wistful that he forgot to wash his hands in looking at her, and felt for the moment as if he could shovel rubbish forever, if such could be his reward.

Seemingly by an effort, she regained her brusque manner, which he did not know was but the mask she was trying to wear, and said, quickly: “What is the matter? Why don’t you wash your face?”

“You told me to give an account of myself,” he retorted, at the same time showing rising color in his dust-begrimed face.

“Well, one of your ability can do two things at once. What have you got in that bundle?”

“You may have forgotten, but I promised to bring you home something that you chose to regard as charity.”

“If I was so ungracious, you ought to have rewarded me by bringing me a broken brick. Will you let me see what you brought?” but without waiting for permission she pounced upon the bundle and dragged out the peaches and sardines.

He, having washed and partially wiped his face, was now able to display more of his embarrassment, and added, apologetically: “That is not all I had. I also bought some cake and fruit, and then my money gave out.”

“And do you mean to say that you have no money left?”

“Not a penny,” he answered, desperately.

“But where are the cake and fruit?”

“Well,” he said, laughingly, “I found the little Bruders famishing on the sidewalk, and they got the best part of your supper.”

“What an escape I have had!” she exclaimed. “Do you think I should have survived the night if I had eaten those strangely assorted dainties, as in honor bound I would have done, since you brought them?” Then with a face of comical severity she turned upon him and said: “Mr. Fleet, you need some one to take care of you. What kind of economy do you call this, sir, especially on the part of one who has burdened himself with four helpless children?”

There was a mingling of sense and seriousness in her raillery, which he recognized, and he said, with a half-vexed laugh at himself: “Well, really, Miss Ludolph, I suppose that I have not wholly regained my wits since the fire. I throw myself on your mercy.” (The same expression he had used once before. She remembered it, and her face changed instantly.) Turning hastily away to hide her feelings, she said, in a rather husky voice, “When I was a wicked fool, I told you I had none; but I think I am a little changed now.” Then she added, sharply, “Please don’t stand there keeping our friends waiting”; and she led the way into the lecture-room, now filled with tables and hungry people.

Dennis was in a maze, and could scarcely understand her, she was so different from the pensive lady, shrinking from rude contact with the world, that he had expected to meet. He did not realize that there was not a particle of weak sentimentality about her, and that, since now pride was gone, her energetic spirit would make her as truly a leader in scenes like these as in those with which she had been familiar. Much less could he understand that she was hiding a heart brimming over with love to him.

He followed her, however, with much assumed humility. When in the middle of the room, who should meet him squarely but Bill Cronk?

“Hello!” he roared, giving Dennis a slap on his back that startled even the hungry, apathetic people at the tables.

Dennis was now almost desperate. Glad as he was to see Cronk, he felt that he was gathering around him a company as incongruous as was the supper he had brought home. If Yahcob Bunk or even the red-nosed bartender had appeared, to claim him as brother, he would scarcely have been surprised. He naturally thought that the Baroness Ludolph might hesitate before entering such a circle of intimates. But he was not guilty of the meanness of cutting a humble friend, even though he saw the eyes of Christine resting on him. In his embarrassment, however, he held out the washbasin in his confused effort to shake hands, and said, heartily, “Why, Cronk, I am glad you came safely out of it.”

“Is this gentleman a friend of yours?” asked Christine, with inimitable grace.

“Yes!” said Dennis, firmly, though coloring somewhat. “He once rendered me a great kindness–“

“Well, miss, you bet your money on the right hoss that time,” interrupted Bill. “If I hain’t a friend of his’n, I’d like to know where you’ll find one; though I did kick up like a cussed ole mule when he knocked the bottle out of my hand. Like enough if he hadn’t I wouldn’t be here.”

“Won’t you present me, Mr. Fleet?” said Christine, with an amused twinkle in her eye.

“Mr. Cronk,” said Dennis (who had now reached that state of mind when one becomes reckless), “this lady is Miss Ludolph, and, I hope I may venture to add, another friend of mine.”

She at once put out her hand, that seemed like a snowflake in the great horny paw of the drover, and said, “Indeed, Mr. Cronk, I will permit no one to claim stronger friendship to Mr. Fleet than mine.”

“I can take any friend of Mr. Fleet’s to my buzzom at once,” said Bill, speaking figuratively, but Christine instinctively shrank nearer Dennis. In talking with men, Bill used the off-hand vernacular of his calling, but when addressing ladies, he evidently thought that a certain style of metaphor bordering on sentiment was the proper thing. But Christine said, “As a friend of Mr. Fleet’s you shall join our party at once”; and she led them to the further end of the room, where at a table sat Dr. Arten, Professor and Mrs. Leonard, Ernst, and the little Bruders, who at the prospect of more eating were wide awake again. After the most hearty greetings they were seated, and she took her place by the side of the little children in order to wait on them. Few more remarkable groups sat down together, even in that time of chaos and deprivation. Professor Leonard was without vest or collar, and sat with coat buttoned tight up to his chin to hide the defect. He had lost his scholarly gold-rimmed spectacles; and a wonderful pair of goggles bestrode his nose in their place. Mrs. Leonard was lost in the folds of an old delaine dress that was a mile too large, and her face looked as if she had assisted actively in an Irish wake. Dr. Arten did the honors at the head of the table in his dress coat and vest that had once been white, though he no longer figured around in red flannel drawers as he had done on the beach. The little round faces of the Bruders seemed as if protruding from animated rag babies, while nothing could dim the glory of Ernst’s great spiritual eyes, as they gratefully and wistfully followed Dennis’s every movement. Cronk was in a very dilapidated and famished state, and endured many and varied tortures in his efforts to be polite while he bolted sandwiches at a rate that threatened famine. Christine still wore the woollen dress she had so hastily donned with Dennis’s assistance on Sunday night, and the marks of the fire were all over it. Around her neck the sparks had burned a hole here and there, through which her white shoulders gleamed. While she was self-possessed and assiduous in her attention to the little children, there was a glow of excitement in her eyes which perhaps Mrs. Leonard understood better than any one else, though the shrewd old doctor was anything but blind.

Dennis sat next to Christine in shirt-sleeves once white, but now, through dust and smoke, of as many colors as Joseph’s coat. He was too weary to eat much, and there was a weight upon his spirits that he could not throw off–the inevitable despondency that follows great fatigue when the mind is not at rest.

Christine darted away and brought him a huge mug of hot coffee.

“Really, Miss Ludolph,” he remonstrated, “you should not wait on me in this style.”

“You may well feel honored, sir,” said Mrs. Leonard. “It is not every man that is waited on by a baroness.”

“The trouble with Christine is that she is too grateful,” put in the old doctor.

“Now I should say that was scarcely possible in view of–” commenced the professor, innocently.

“I really hope Miss Ludolph will do nothing more from gratitude,” interrupted Dennis, in a low tone that showed decided annoyance.

The doctor and Mrs. Leonard were ready to burst with suppressed amusement, and Cronk, seeing something going on that he did not understand, looked curiously around with a sandwich half-way to his open mouth, while Ernst, believing from Dennis’s tone that he was wronged, turned his great eyes reproachfully from one to another. But Christine was equal to the occasion. Lifting her head and looking round with a free, clear glance she said, “And I say that men who meet this great disaster with courage and fortitude, and hopefully set about retrieving it, possess an inherent nobility such as no king or kaiser could bestow, and, were I twenty times a baroness, I should esteem it an honor to wait upon them.”

A round of applause followed this speech, in which Cronk joined vociferously, and Mrs. Leonard whispered: “Oh, Christine, how beautifully I learn from your face the difference between dignity and pride! That was your same old proud look, changed and glorified into something so much better.”

Dennis also saw her expression, and could not disguise his admiration, but every moment he increasingly felt how desperately hard it would be to give her up, now that she seemed to realize his very ideal of womanhood.

And Cronk, having satisfied the clamors of his appetite, began to be fascinated in his rough way with her grace and beauty. Nudging Dennis he asked in a loud whisper heard by all, which nearly caused Dr. Arten to choke, “The young filly is a German lady, ain’t she?”

Dennis, much embarrassed, nodded assent.

A happy thought struck Bill. Though impeded by the weight of an indefinite number of sandwiches, he slowly rose and looked solemnly round on the little group. Dennis trembled, for he feared some dreadful bull on the part of his rough, though well-meaning friend, but Dr. Arten, in a state of intense enjoyment, cried, “Mr. Cronk has the floor.”

Lifting a can of coffee containing about a quart, the drover said impressively, and with an attempt at great stateliness:

“Beautiful ladies and honorable gentlemen here assembled, I would respectfully ask you to drink to a toast in this harmless beverage: _The United States of Ameriky!_ When the two great elemental races–the sanguinary Yankee and the phlegmatic German–become one, and, as represented in the blooded team before me” (waving his hand majestically over the heads of Dennis and Christine), “pull in the traces together, how will the ship of state go forward!” and his face disappeared behind his huge flagon of coffee in the deepest pledge. Bill thought he had uttered a very profound and elegant sentiment, but his speech fell like a bombshell in the little company.

“The very spirit of mischief is abroad to-day,” Dennis groaned. And Christine, with a face like a peony, snatched up the youngest little Bruder, saying, “It is time these sleepy children were in bed”; but the doctor and the Leonards went off again and again in uncontrollable fits of laughter, in which Dennis could not refrain from joining, though he wished the unlucky Cronk a thousand miles away. Bill put down his mug, stared around in a surprised and nonplussed manner, and then said, in a loud whisper, “I say, Fleet, was there any hitch in what I said?”

This set them off again, but Dennis answered good-naturedly, slapping his friend on the shoulder, “Cronk, you would make a man laugh in the face of fate.”

Bill took this as a compliment, and the strange party, thrown together by an event that mingled all classes in the community, broke up and went their several ways.

CHAPTER L

EVERY BARRIER BURNED AWAY

Dennis was glad to escape, and went to a side door where he could cool his hot cheeks in the night air. He fairly dreaded to meet Christine again, and, even where the wind blew cold upon him, his cheeks grew hotter and hotter, as he remembered what had occurred. He had been there but a little time when a light hand fell on his arm, and he was startled by her voice–“Mr. Fleet, are you very tired?”

“Not in the least,” he answered, eagerly.

“You must be: it is wrong for me to think of it.”

“Miss Ludolph, please tell me what I can do for you?”

She looked at him wistfully and said: “This is a time when loss and disaster burden every heart, and I know it is a duty to try to maintain a cheerful courage, and forget personal troubles. I have tried to-day, and, with God’s help, hope in time to succeed. While endeavoring to wear in public a cheerful face, I may perhaps now, and to so true a friend as yourself, show more of my real feelings. Is it too far–would it take too long, to go to where my father died? His remains could not have been removed.”

“Alas, Miss Ludolph,” said Dennis, very gently, “there can be no visible remains. The words of the Prayer Book are literally true in this case–‘Ashes to ashes.’ But I can take you to the spot, and it is natural that you should wish to go. Are you equal to the fatigue?”

“I shall not feel it if you go with me, and then we can ride part of the way, for I have a little money.” (Dr. Arten had insisted on her taking some.) “Wait for me a moment.”

She soon reappeared with her shawl cut in two equal parts. One she insisted on folding and putting around him as a Scotsman wears his plaid. “You will need it in the cool night wind,” she said, and then she took his arm in perfect trust, and they started.

In the cars she gave him her money, and he said, “I will return my fare to-morrow night.”

“What!” she replied, looking a little hurt. “After spending two dollars on me, will you not take five cents in return?”

“But I spent it foolishly.”

“You spent it like a generous man. Surely, Mr. Fleet, you did not understand my badinage this evening. If I had not spoken to you in that strain, I could not have spoken at all. You have been a brother to me, and we should not stand on these little things.”

“That is it,” thought he again. “She looks upon and trusts me as a brother, and such I must try to be till she departs for her own land; yet if she knew the agony of the effort she would scarcely ask it.”

But as they left the car, he said, “All that you would ask from a brother, please ask from me.”

She put her hand in his, and said, “I now ask your support, sympathy, and prayer, for I feel that I shall need all here.”

Still retaining her hand, he placed it on his arm and guided her most carefully around the hot ruins and heaps of rubbish till they came to where the Art Building had stood. The moon shone brightly down, lighting up with weird and ghostly effect the few walls remaining. They were utterly alone in the midst of a desolation sevenfold more impressing than that of the desert. Pointing to the spot where, in the midst of his treasures of art and idolized worldly possessions, Mr. Ludolph had perished, she said, in a thrilling whisper, “My father’s ashes are there.”

“Yes.”

Her breath came quick and short, and her face was so pale and agonized that he trembled for her, but he tightened his grasp on her hand, and his tears fell with hers.

“Oh, my father!” she cried, in a tone of unspeakable pathos, “can I never, never see you again? Can I never tell you of the love of Jesus, and the better and happier life beyond? Oh, how my heart yearns after you! God forgive me if this is wrong, but I cannot help it!”

“It is not wrong,” said Dennis, brokenly. “Our Lord himself wept over those He could not save.”

“It is all that I can do,” she murmured, and, leaning her head on his shoulder, a tempest of sobs shook her person.

He supported her tenderly, and said, in accents of the deepest sympathy, “Let every tear fall that will: they will do you good.” At last, as she became calmer, he added, “Remember that your great Elder Brother has called the heavy laden to Him for rest.”

At last she raised her head, turned, and gave one long parting look, and, as Dennis saw her face in the white moonlight, it was the face of a pitying angel. A low “Farewell!” trembled from her lips, she leaned heavily on his arm, they turned away, and seemingly the curtain fell between father and child to rise no more.

“Mr. Fleet,” she said, pleadingly, “are you too tired to take me to my old home on the north side?”

“Miss Ludolph, I could go to the ends of the earth for you, but you are not equal to this strain upon your feelings. Have mercy on yourself.”

But she said, in a low, dreamy tone: “I wish to take leave to-night of my old life–the strange, sad past with its mystery of evil; and then I shall set my face resolutely toward a better life–a better country. So bear with me, my true, kind friend, a little longer.”

“Believe me, my thought was all for you. All sense of fatigue has passed away.”

Silently they made their way, till they stood where, a few short days before, had been the elegant home that was full of sad and painful memories to both.

“There was my studio,” she said in the same dreamy tone, “where I indulged in my wild, ambitious dreams, and sought to grasp a little fading circlet of laurel, while ignoring a heavenly and an immortal crown. There,” she continued, her pale face becoming crimson, even in the white moonlight, “I most painfully wronged you, my most generous, forgiving friend, and a noble revenge you took when you saved my life and led me to a Saviour. May God reward you; but I humbly ask your pardon–“

“Please, Miss Ludolph, do not speak of that. I have buried it all. Do not pain yourself by recalling that which I have forgiven and almost forgotten. You are now my ideal of all that is noble and good, and in my solitary artist life of the future you shall be my gentle yet potent inspiration.”

“Why must your life be solitary in the future?” she asked, in a low tone.

He was very pale, and his arm trembled under her hand; at last he said, in a hoarse voice, “Do not ask me. Why should I pain you by telling you the truth?”

“Is it the part of a true friend to refuse confidence?” she asked, reproachfully.

He turned his face away, that she might not see the evidences of the bitter struggle within–the severest he had ever known; but at last he spoke in the firm and quiet voice of victory. She had called him brother, and trusted him as such. She had ventured out alone on a sacred mission with him, as she might with a brother. She was dependent on him, and burdened by a feeling of obligation. His high sense of