Barriers Burned Away
E. P. Roe
Part 2 out of 9
He pretended to be perfectly aghast at Dennis's onslaught on the
buckwheat cakes, and rolled up his eyes despairingly as each new plate
Having finished, Dennis gave him a nod, and said, "Wait till
"Ah! dere vill be von famine," said the German, in a tone of anguish,
wringing his hands.
Having procured the needful implement, Dennis started out, and, though
there was considerable competition, found plenty to do, and shovelled
away with little cessation till one o'clock. Then, counting his gains,
he found that he had paid for his shovel, secured breakfast and dinner,
and had a balance on hand of two dollars and fifty cents, and he had
nearly half a day yet before him. He felt rich--nay, more than that,
he felt like a man who, sinking in a shoreless ocean, suddenly catches
a plank that bears him up until land appears in the distance.
"This is what comes of asking God to help a fellow," said he to himself.
"Strange, too, that He should answer my prayer in part before I asked,
by causing that queer jumble of good and evil, Bill Cronk, to suggest
to me this way of turning an honest penny. I wish Bill was as good a
friend to himself as he is to others. I fear that he will go to the
dogs. Bless me! the gnawings of hunger are bad enough, but what must
be those of conscience? I think I can astonish my German friend to-day
as never before;" and, shouldering his shovel, he walked back to dinner,
feeling like a prince bearing aloft the insignia of his power.
When he entered the bar and lunch room, he saw that something was
wrong. The landlord met him, instead of his jolly, satirical friend.
Now the owner of the place was a wizen-faced, dried-up old anatomy,
who seemed utterly exhaling away in tobacco smoke, while his assistant
was becoming spherical under the expansive power of lager. It was his
custom to sit up and smoke most of the night, and therefore he was
down late in the morning. When he appeared his assistant told him of
the bargain he had made with Dennis as a good joke. But old Hans hadn't
any faculty for jokes. Dollars and cents and his big meerschaum made
up the two elements of his life. The thought of losing zwei shillings
or zwei cents by Dennis, or any one else, caused him anguish, and
instead of laughing, his fun-loving assistant was aghast at seeing him
fall into a passion.
"You be von big fule. Vat for we keep mens here who haf no money? You
should gleared him off, instead of making pargains for him to eat us
out of der house."
"We haf his trunk," said Jacob, for that was his name.
"Nothin' in it," growled Hans, yet somewhat mollified by this fact.
When Dennis appeared, he put the case without any circumlocution: "I
makes my livin' by keepin' dis house. I can no make my livin' unless
efrypodies bays me. I haf reason to dink dot you haf no moneys. Vat
ish de druf? 'Gause if you haf none, you can no longer stay here."
"Have I not paid for everything I have had so far?" said Dennis.
"Dot is not der question. Haf you got any moneys?"
"What is your bill in advance up to Monday morning?"
"Zwei dollar and a quarter, if you dake preakfast."
"Deduct breakfast and dinner to-day for clearing off the sidewalk."
"Dot ish too much; you did it in half-hour."
"Well, it would have taken you three. But a bargain is a bargain, the
world over. Did not you promise it?"--to Jacob.
"Yah! und you shall haf him, too, if I be der loser. Yahcob Bunk ish
not der man to go pack on his vort."
"Vel, den," said old Hans, "von dollar sheventy-five to Monday morning."
"There's the money; now let me have my dinner, for I am in a hurry."
At the sight of money Hans at once became the most obsequious of hosts,
and so would remain while it lasted. But Dennis saw that the moment
it was gone his purchased courtesy would change, and he trembled at
his narrow escape from being thrust out into the wintry streets,
friendless, penniless, to beg or starve--equally hard alternatives to
"Come, Yahcob, thou snail, give der shentlemans his dinner," said Hans.
Jacob, who had been looking on with heavy, stolid face, now brightened
up on seeing that all was right, and gave Dennis a double portion of
the steaming pot-pie, and a huge mug of coffee. When Dennis had finished
these and crowned his repast with a big dumpling, Jacob came to him
with a face as long and serious as his harvest moon of a visage could
be made, and said: "Dere ish nodding more in Chicago; you haf gleaned
it out. Ve must vait dill der evenin' drain gomes pefore ve haf supper."
"That will be time enough for me," said Dennis, laughing--for he could
laugh to-day at little things--and started off again with his shovel.
LAND AT LAST
During the latter part of a busy afternoon, Dennis came to a spacious,
elegant store before which the snow lay untouched save as trodden by
passers-by. Over the high arched doorway was the legend in gilt letters,
"Art Building"; and as far as a mere warehouse for beautiful things
could deserve the title, this place did, for it was crowded with
engravings, paintings, bronzes, statuary, and every variety of ornament.
With delighted eyes and lingering steps he had passed slowly through
this store a few days previous in his search, but had received the
usual cool negative. He had gone reluctantly out into the cold street
again as Adam went out of Paradise.
A large florid-looking man with a light curling mustache now stood in
the doorway. His appearance was unmistakably that of a German of the
highest and most cultivated type. And yet, when he spoke, his English
was so good that you detected only a foreign accent. Strong vexation
was stamped upon his face as he looked at the snowy, untidy sidewalk.
"Mr. Schwartz," he asked of one of his clerks, "was Pat here this
"Was he perfectly straight?"
"I cannot say that he was, sir."
"He is off on a spree again. Send him to me the moment he returns."
"Shall I clear your sidewalk?" said Dennis, stepping up and touching
his hat respectfully.
"Yes," said the gentleman, scarcely looking at him; "and when you have
finished come to the office for your money;" and then he walked back
into the store with a frowning brow.
Though Dennis was now pretty thoroughly fatigued with the hard day's
work, he entered on this task with a good will as the closing labor
of the day, hoping, from the wide space to be cleared, to receive
proportionate recompense. And yet his despatch was not so great as
usual, for in spite of himself his eyes were continually wandering to
the large show-windows, from which smiled down upon him summer
landscapes, and lovely faces that seemed all the more beautiful in
contrast with the bleak and darkening street.
He was rudely startled from one of his stolen glances at a sweet,
girlish face that seemed peering archly at him from a corner. His ears
were assailed by the loud tones and strong brogue of "Pat," returning
thus late to his neglected duties.
"Bad luck to yez! what yez doin' here?"
"Clearing the sidewalk," said Dennis, laconically.
"Give me that shovel, or I'll knock bloody blazes out of yez."
Dennis at once stood on the defensive, and raised his tool
threateningly. At the same time seeing a policeman, he called out,
"Will you please cause this drunken fellow to move on?"
The officer was about to comply, when the Irishman, with a snort like
that of a mad bull, rushed to the door of the art building, wrenched
it open, and, leaving it so, tore down the long store, crying, "Misther
Ludolph! Misther Ludolph! here's a bloody spalpane a-doin' my work."
He had scarcely got half-way to the office before there was a crash
followed by a general commotion.
Pat, in his blind rage, and with steps uncertain from the effects of
whiskey, had struck a valuable marble, and it lay broken on the floor.
This catastrophe sobered him, and he stood looking in dismay at the
destruction he had wrought. His employer, the gentleman whom Dennis
had seen at the door, now appeared upon the scene in a towering passion,
and scrupled not to heap maledictions upon the head of the unfortunate
"What do you mean by rushing through the store in this mad style?" he
"There's an impudent fellow outside a-doin' my work," said Pat.
"Why didn't you do it yourself, instead of going off to the gin-mills
this morning? Didn't I warn you? Didn't I tell you your last spree
should be the last in my employ? Now begone, you drunken idiot! and
if you ever show your face on these premises again I'll have you
arrested and compel payment for this marble, and it will take every
cent you have in the world, and more too."
"Ah! Misther Ludolph, if ye'll only give me one more--"
"I tell you be off! or I will call the policeman at once."
"But Bridget and the childer will starve."
"What are Bridget and the children to me? If you won't take care of
them, you can't expect other people to. Begone!" said his employer,
advancing threateningly and stamping his foot.
Pat looked around in vain for help: the clerks were but fainter echoes
of their master.
Seeing his case to be hopeless, he turned about then hurried away, his
big red face distorted by many contending emotions. Nor did he stop
until he reached one of the fatal "gin-mills," where he soon drowned
memory and trouble in huge potations of the fiery element that was
destroying him and bringing wretchedness to "Bridget and the childer."
Again Dennis had a lesson on drinking for the effects.
He rapidly completed his work and entered the store. A clerk handed
him fifty cents.
"May I see Mr. Ludolph a moment?" he asked.
"Yes," replied the clerk, "he is in the inner office there; but I guess
you won't find him very smooth this evening," looking at the same time
suggestively toward the broken marble.
But Mr. Ludolph was not in as bad a humor as was imagined. This thrifty
Teuton had not lost much by the mishap of the afternoon, for a month
or two of wages was due Pat, and this kept back would pay in the main
for the injury he had done. His whole soul being bent on the acquirement
of money, for reasons that will be explained further on, his momentary
passion soon passed away when he found he had sustained no material
injury. To Dennis's knock he responded in his usual tone, "Come in!"
and Dennis stood in a warm, lighted, cosey office, where the object
of his quest sat writing rapidly with his back to the door. Dennis
waited respectfully till the facile pen glided through the sentence,
and then Mr. Ludolph looked up. Dennis's bearing and appearance were
so unmistakably those of a gentleman that Mr. Ludolph, not
recognizing him as the person who had cleared his sidewalk, rose
courteously and said, "Did you wish to see me?"
"Yes, sir," replied Dennis; "I understand that you dismissed a person
in your employ this afternoon. I would respectfully apply for his
place, if it is not promised."
The gentleman smiled and said: "You are mistaken, I think. I discharged
a drunken Irishman, who had been porter and man-of-all-work about the
store, this afternoon; but I have no place vacant, young sir, that you
would care to fill."
"If you think me competent to fill the position of porter and your
man-of-all-work, I would be very glad to obtain it; that is, if it
will support me and those dependent on me."
The merchant muttered to himself, "I thought he was a gentleman."
Then, as this was a business matter of some importance, he caused
Dennis to stand full in the light, while he withdrew somewhat in the
shadow, and gave it his attention with characteristic shrewdness and
"You seem rather above the situation you ask for," he said.
"I am not above it in circumstances," said Dennis, "and it certainly
is better than shovelling snow all day."
"Are you the man that just cleaned my sidewalk?"
"I am, sir."
"You must be aware that your general appearance is very different from
that of the man discharged to-day, and from those seeking the menial
place in question. Can you explain this fact satisfactorily?"
"I can readily explain it, and I hope satisfactorily. At any rate I
shall be perfectly open;" and Dennis told him briefly, but plainly,
just how he was situated.
As the keen man of the world watched with the closest scrutiny the
honest young face, he believed every word. Accustomed to deal with all
classes of men from childhood, he had learned to read them as the open
page of a book.
He asked coolly, however, "Have you no recommendations?"
Dennis produced the ministerial letter, which Mr. Ludolph glanced at
with good-natured contempt.
"This is all right," he said; "superstition is an excellent thing for
some minds. I managed Pat a year through his priest, and then he got
beyond the priest and me too."
This undisguised contempt of all that he held sacred, and the classing
of true faith with gross superstition, pained Dennis; and his face
showed it, though he said nothing.
"There," said the gentleman, "I did not mean to hurt your feelings,
but to the educated in our land these things seem very childish."
"I should serve you none the worse," said Dennis, with quiet dignity,
"if I believed that the duty I owed to you I owed also to God."
Mr. Ludolph looked as if a new idea had struck him, smiled, and said:
"Most people's religion, as far as my experience has gone, is not of
this practical kind. But I believe that I can trust you, and your face
and story are worth much more to me than this letter. A scamp might
possess that as well as an honest youth like you. Now, as to terms:
I will give you forty dollars a month for the first two months, and
then, if you develop and take well to the work, I will give you sixty."
Dennis thought that this, with close economy, would enable him to live
and support his mother and sisters, and he accepted the terms.
"Moreover, to show the advantage of telling a straightforward story,
you may sleep in the store: the building will be safer for having some
one in it. I will pay you at the end of every week as long as you suit,
so that you can commence sending something to your mother immediately.
You see that I take an interest in you," said the shrewd man, "and
expect you to take an interest in my business, and work for me as for
Simple, honest Dennis could not see that Mr. Ludolph cared infinitely
more for himself than for all the world combined, and made it his
life-study to get the most out of it with the least cost to himself.
Under the words that seemed so kind and considerate, the young man's
heart swelled with the strong and grateful purpose to spare himself
in no way in the service of such an employer. The wily man saw this,
and smiled to himself over the credulity of mankind.
"Have you enough to last till next Saturday night?" he asked.
"I will make it last," said Dennis, sturdily.
"That is right," said Mr. Ludolph. "Stand on your own feet if you can.
I never give any more help than will barely enable a man to help
himself"--a maxim which had the advantage not only of being sound, but
of according exactly with his disposition.
After a moment's thought, Mr. Ludolph spoke in a tone so sharp, and
a manner so stern, that Dennis was startled.
"Mark me, young man, I wish a plain understanding in one respect: you
take Pat's place, and I expect you to do Pat's work. I wish no trouble
to arise from your being above your business."
"You will have none," said Dennis, quietly and firmly.
"All right, then. Mr. Schwartz will show you about closing up the
store. Be here early Monday morning, and remember that all depends
In the depths of his grateful heart Dennis felt how much the success
of that day and every day of life depended on God.
Mr. Ludolph put on his coat and gloves and went out with Dennis into
"Gentlemen," said he to his clerks, "this young man, Dennis Fleet by
name, will take the place of Pat Murphy, discharged to-day. Mr.
Schwartz, will you show him what it is necessary to do to-night? He
will be here on Monday morning at the usual time for opening the store,
and after that will sleep in the building."
The clerks looked at him for a moment, as they might at a new piece
of furniture, or a labor-saving machine, and then coolly finished their
duties, and followed their employer. Mr. Schwartz showed him about
closing the store, taking care of the furnace, etc., and Dennis saw
that his place was no sinecure. Still it was not work, but its lack,
that he dreaded, and his movements were so eager and earnest that a
faint expression of surprise and curiosity tinged the broad, stolid
face of Mr. Schwartz; but he only buttoned his coat to the chin and
muttered, "New broom," and went his way homeward, leaving Dennis to
THE NEW BROOM
The following Sabbath was a bright winter day without, but bright
summer in Dennis's heart. He inquired his way to a neighboring church,
and every word of prayer, praise, and truth fell on a glad, grateful
spirit. Returning, he wrote a long letter to his mother, telling her
all he had passed through, especially dwelling on the truth he had
discovered of God's wish to make this life happy and successful, as
well as the life beyond.
In closing, he wrote: "Here I am, Dennis Fleet, who a few days since
thought the world scarcely large enough for what I meant to do, standing
contentedly and gratefully in Pat Murphy's shoes. I will not conceal
from you, speaking figuratively (the fates forbid that it should be
literally true), that I hope to outgrow them, and arrive at something
better before many months pass. In the meantime I am indeed thankful
for the means of winning honest bread for us all. It is quite a
come-down from the classics and law to the position of porter and man
of-all-work in a picture and music store, but if God means me to rise
He can lead me upward from my lowly standpoint as well as from the
most favored that I could have chosen for myself. I have learned that
if I will _trust Him_ and do present duty thoroughly, He will not forget
On Monday morning, half an hour before the specified time, Dennis stood
at the store. Impatiently he walked up and down before what would
become the scene of joys and sorrows such as he had never before
experienced. But we will not anticipate.
In due time Mr. Schwartz appeared. He gave Dennis a cool nod, and said,
"Glad to see you so prompt," then muttered again to himself, "New
In Mr. Schwartz's slow, plodding soul the fire of enthusiasm had never
burned. He was eminently conservative, and looked with wary suspicion
on anything that appeared like earnestness. In the midst of a driving,
bustling Western city, he stuck in the mud of his German phlegm, like
a snag in the swift current of the Mississippi. Yet Mr. Ludolph found
him a most valuable assistant. He kept things straight. Under his
minute supervision everything had to be right on Saturday night as
well as on Monday morning, on the 31st of December as well as on the
1st of January. He was one who through life would be satisfied with
a subordinate position, conscious of the lack of enterprise needful
to push his own way in the world. His painstaking, methodical spirit
was just the kind to pervade a large warehouse like that he had in
charge, and prevent loss and confusion in the multiplicity of objects
it contained. Pat's careless Irish ways had vexed his soul beyond
words, and now Dennis's eager manner suggested a hare-brained Yankee
youth who would raise a dust for a week and then be off at something
else. He was therefore cool and curt, seeking by frostiness of manner
to nip the budding enthusiasm that annoyed him.
Dennis heeded him not, but bent every faculty to the mastery of the
duties required of him. He was to mop out the store with damp cloths,
so as to raise no dust, to look after the furnace and graduate the
heat throughout the building, to receive boxes, to assist in packing
and unpacking pianos and other musical instruments that occupied part
of the upper floors, and to make himself generally useful. So far from
being an easy position, it was one that required great strength and
despatch, and these had been Pat's qualities save when drink got the
better of him. For one of his age, Dennis was very strong, and his
experience in helping his mother in household duties had made him quick
and dexterous, where most young men would have been awkward and slow.
After a day or two Mr. Schwartz relaxed his grimness somewhat, for if
Dennis worked eagerly he also worked well for a beginner. Still it
would require several years of well-doing to satisfy old Schwartz that
all was right. But Mr. Ludolph, with his quick insight into character,
watched this "new broom" a few days, and then congratulated himself
on gaining another decided help toward the object nearest his heart.
The other clerks were of German descent, and under Mr. Schwartz's rigid
system each one filled his appropriate niche, and performed carefully
the duties assigned.
Even to Dennis's uncultivated eye there was an inartistic formality
about the whole establishment. His sense of this was at first but a
feeling--a vague impression that grew upon him without his quite knowing
why. He soon discovered, however, that everything was arranged squarely,
according to system, order, and not with a view of placing in the best
lights and shadows the beautiful things to be sold. He saw that Mr.
Ludolph was annoyed by the same defect. One bright day, when everything
stood out with glaring distinctness, he seemed provoked beyond measure
by this inartistic rigidity, and stormed through the store at a great
"This art building and everybody and everything in it look as if they
had swallowed a ramrod," snarled he. "Mr. Schwartz, can't you teach
the young men to throw a little ease and grace into the arrangement
of the articles under their charge?"
Mr. Schwartz looked at him with a blank, impassive face, and his
employer felt that he might as well ask an elephant to teach dancing.
Turning suddenly on a stolid youth, he exclaimed, "By the gods! if you
have not arranged all the statuettes on your counter in straight lines,
and half of them with their backs toward the door at which our customers
enter! Here, gather round me while I give you some ideas of
The clerks gathered around him, while with hands of skill and taste
he placed everything artistically. The effect of a little transposition
was marvellous, and Mr. Schwartz acknowledged that the groups looked
doubly pretty and inviting. Dennis stood at a respectful distance, but
was a close observer. He was the only one who gained much benefit from
the lesson, because the only one capable of receiving it. With quick,
appreciative eye he saw the grouping needful to produce the desired
As Mr. Ludolph looked up he caught Dennis's intelligent gaze.
"That is right, Fleet," he said; "you learn, too, if you can, and when
you are dusting around see if you cannot combine a little order and
From that day forward the hand and taste of Dennis Fleet gradually,
and almost imperceptibly at first, gave a new aspect and created a
new atmosphere in the "Art Building." But at first he was kept busy
enough at his humble routine duties. Every one felt and expressed a
little surprise at his getting into harness so quickly, but Mr.
Schwartz's influence was not conducive to conversation or emotions,
however faint. All went forward quietly and orderly, like well-oiled
machinery. Customers received every attention, and though many no doubt
had the undefined feeling that something was wrong in the arrangement
of the store, each found an abundance of beautiful things suited to his
taste and purse, and so trade was good, even though the holiday season
As for Dennis, he was to a certain extent in Paradise. Nature had given
him a deep, earnest love of the beautiful, and a keen perception of it.
Though his days were busy indeed, he found time gradually to study
every pretty thing in the store. Though much was mystery to him as
yet, he felt that he had crossed the threshold of a beautiful world--the
world of art. When a boy in New England he had taken drawing-lessons,
and had shown remarkable aptness. While at college, also, he had given
some attention to drawing and coloring, but circumstances had prevented
him from following the bent of his taste. Now the passion awoke with
tenfold force, and he had not been in his place a week before he began
to make sketches of little things that pleased him. Some of the pictures
and bronzes became almost dear because of the pleasure and inspiration
that they occasioned, and at their sale his feeling was akin to regret.
Early in the morning, when refreshed and brightened by the night's
rest, he would walk through the store as through fairy-land, and,
forgetting that he was a humble servitor, would feel as if all were
his. But in fact was not his possession truer than that of many whose
palace walls glow with every rich gem of art, and yet whose eyes are
blind and their hearts dull to the beauty they have paid for?
A few days after his arrival, a little incident occurred that was hard
and practical enough, and might justly cause him to feel that he
occupied a humble place, not only in the world of art, but in the world
in general. There had been a day of rain, slush, and mud. One of the
younger clerks had been sent out on an errand, and came in well
splashed. Drawing off his boots, he threw them to Dennis, saying: "Here
you, Fleet! black my boots as quick as you can. I must go out again."
Dennis reddened, and for a moment drew himself up as if he had been
struck. The young man saw it and said, in a loud, coarse tone that
could be heard by several customers: "Vat! you above your biz? I thought
it vould be so."
Dennis acted with decision. He meant to have the matter settled at
once. Picking up the muddy boots, he marched straight into Mr. Ludolph's
office. That gentleman looked up, impatient at interruption, and saw
his man-of-all-work standing before him with the splashed boots dangling
in his hands.
"'Well, what is it?" asked he, sharply.
"Mr. Berder threw me those boots and told me to black them. Is this
a part of my duty here?" said Dennis, in a firm, quiet tone.
"Curse it all!" said Mr. Ludolph, with much irritation; "I thought
there would be trouble with your uppishness."
"There shall be no trouble whatever," said Dennis; "but I prefer to
take my orders from you, and not from Mr. Berder. If you say this is
expected, the disagreeable task shall be done as well as I can do it."
Mr. Ludolph looked sharply at the young man for a moment and hesitated.
In his heart he felt that he was speaking to a gentleman, and that it
was not the thing to ask of him such menial work. But his irritation
and desire to crush out anything like insubordination prevailed. Still,
rather than directly order it, he appealed to the custom of the past,
and stepping to the door of the office he called: "Mr. Schwartz, come
here! Did Pat black the shoes of the _gentlemen_ of this store?"
"You took Pat Murphy's place, did you not?"
"Yes, sir," said Dennis.
"It seems to me, then, that this settles the question," said Mr.
Ludolph, coolly, turning to his writing; but he furtively and carefully
watched Dennis's course.
Determined to show that he was not above his business, that he accepted
the bitter with the sweet, Dennis went upstairs to his room, got
blacking and brush, and taking his station in a corner where Mr. Ludolph
could plainly see him through the glass doors of his office, he polished
away as vigorously as if that were his only calling. Mr. Ludolph looked
and smiled. His was a nature that could be pleased with a small triumph
like this. But the other clerks, seeing Mr. Berder's success, and
determining to do their part, also, in taking Dennis, "down a peg,"
as they expressed it, brought their boots, too, and Mr. Berder came
with his again in the afternoon. Dennis cleaned and polished away in
full view of Mr. Ludolph, who began to realize with vexation that his
man-of-all-work would have little time for the duties of the store if
he were installed general bootblack of the establishment. But, after
this, cold and snow kept the streets dry and clean for some time, and
the matter passed on without further notice. Boots were seldom brought
to him, and when they were, they were cleaned without a word. In the
meantime, his ability and faithfulness in the discharge of his regular
duties, and in some slight degree his taste and judgment, began to be
recognized, and Mr. Ludolph congratulated himself that in giving Dennis
Pat Murphy's place he had made a decided change for the better.
TOO MUCH ALIKE
One of the duties that Dennis enjoyed most was the opening of new
goods. With the curiosity and pleasure of a child he would unpack the
treasures of art consigned to his employer, and when a number of boxes
were left at the front door he was eager to see their contents. During
his first three weeks at the store, there had not been many such
arrivals of goods and pictures. But now new things were coming in; and,
above all, Mr. Ludolph was daily expecting pictures imported
directly from Europe.
One afternoon early in February a large flat box was brought to the
store. Mr. Ludolph examined its marks, smiled, and told Dennis to open
it with great care, cutting every nail with a chisel. There was little
need of cautioning him, for he would have bruised his right hand rather
than mar one line of beauty.
The "Art Building" contained two or three small showrooms, where the
more valuable pictures could be exhibited in a good light. Into one
of these the large box was carried, and most carefully opened. The two
clerks who were helping Dennis laughed at his eager interest, and
called him under their breath a "green 'un." Mr. Schwartz looked upon
him as a mild sort of lunatic. But Mr. Ludolph, who stood near, to see
if the picture was safe and right, watched him with some curiosity.
His manner was certainly very different from Pat Murphy's at such a
time, and his interest both amused and pleased his employer.
When at last the picture was lifted from the box and placed on a large
easel, all exclaimed at its beauty save Dennis. On looking at him,
they saw that his eyes had filled with tears, and his lips were
quivering so that he could not have spoken.
"Is she a relation of yours?" asked Mr. Schwartz, in a matter-of-fact
A loud laugh followed this sally from such an unusual source. Dennis
turned on his heel, left the room, and busied himself with duties in
a distant part of the store the rest of the day. It seemed to him that
they were like savages bartering away gold and pearls, whose value
they could not understand; much less could they realize his possession
of a nature of exquisite sensibility to beauty.
When all were gone he returned to the room, and sat down before the
picture in rapt attention. It was indeed a fine work of art, finished
in that painstaking manner characteristic of the Germans.
The painting was a winter scene in Germany. In the far background rose
wooded and snow-clad hills. Nearer in the perspective was a bold bluff,
surmounted by a half-ruined castle. At the base of the bluff flowed
a river, now a smooth glare of ice, and in the distance figures were
wheeling about upon skates. In the immediate foreground were two
persons. One was a lovely young girl, dressed in black velvet trimmed
with ermine. The basque fitted closely to her person, revealing its
graceful outlines, and was evidently adapted to the active sport in
which she was engaged. While the rich warm blood mantled her cheeks,
the snow was not whiter than her temples and brow. Down her shoulders
flowed a profusion of wavy hair, scattered threads of which glistened
like gold in the slanting rays of the sun. Her eyes, of a deep violet,
were turned, in sympathy with the scorn of the full, smiling mouth,
upon the figure of a young man kneeling before her, making awkward
attempts to fasten her skate to the trim little foot. It was evident
that the favor was too much for him, and that his fluttering heart
made his hands trembling and unskilful. But the expression of the
maiden's face clearly indicated that her heart was as cold toward him
as the ice on which he kneeled.
The extreme beauty of the picture and its exquisite finish fascinated
Dennis, while the girl's face jarred upon his feelings like a musical
discord. After gazing fixedly for a long time, he said, "What possessed
the man to paint such a lovely face and make its expression only that
of scorn, pride, and heartless merriment?"
All the long night the face haunted and troubled him. He saw it in his
dreams. It had for him a strong interest that he could not
understand--that strange fascination which a very beautiful thing that
has been marred and wronged has for some natures. So powerful was this
impression upon his sensitive nature that he caught himself saying,
as of a living being, "Oh, that I could give to that face the expression
God meant it to have!"
And then he laughed at his own folly. His watchfulness caused him to
oversleep the next morning, and he was later than usual in getting
through the routine duties of the store. At length, about nine o'clock,
dusty and begrimed from mopping, feeding the furnace, etc., he stood
with duster and brush in hand before the painting that had so disturbed
his rest. He was in his shirt-sleeves, and in careful economy had a
large coarse apron of ticking girded about his person. His black,
dishevelled locks looked like an inverted crow's nest, and altogether
he was unpresentable, appearing more like the presiding divinity of
a dust-heap than of an "Art Building."
After gazing a few moments on the scornful, beautiful face that might
have obtained its haughty patrician lineaments from the old barons of
the ruined castle just above, he seemed to grow conscious of this
himself, and shrunk behind the picture half ashamed, as if the fair
girl could see him.
While engaged in cleaning off some stains and marks upon the frame,
he did not hear a light footstep in the room. Finishing his task, he
stepped out from behind the picture with the purpose of leaving the
apartment, when a vision met his gaze which startled him to that degree
that he dropped his brush and duster upon the floor, and stood
transfixed. There before him, in flesh and blood it seemed, stood the
lady of the picture--the same dress, the same beautiful blond face,
and, above all, the same expression. He was made conscious of his
absurd position by a suppressed titter from the clerks at the door,
and a broad laugh from Mr. Ludolph. The beautiful face turned toward
him for a moment, and he felt himself looked over from head to foot.
At first there was an expression of vexation at the interruption, and
then, as if from the ludicrousness of his appearance, the old laughing,
scornful look returned. Casting a quick, furtive glance at the picture,
which seemed to satisfy him, Dennis, with hot cheeks, gathered up his
tools and beat a hasty retreat. As he passed out, Mr. Ludolph asked,
good naturedly, "Why, Fleet, what is the matter?"
"Indeed, sir, I hardly know," answered the bewildered youth, "but it
seems to me that I have lost my wits since that picture came. For a
moment I thought that the lady on the canvas had stepped out upon the
"Now that you speak of it," exclaimed Mr. Ludolph, advancing into the
room, "there is a striking resemblance."
"Nonsense! father," Dennis heard the young lady say; "you are too old
to flatter. As for that hare-brained youth of the dust-brush, he looked
as if he might have the failing of poor Pat, and not always be able
to see straight."
At this Dennis's cheeks grew hotter still, while a low laugh from one
or two of the clerks near showed that they were enjoying his
Dennis hastened away to his room, and it was well that he did not hear
the conversation that followed.
"Oh, no!" responded Mr. Ludolph, "that is not Dennis's failing. He is
a member of a church in 'good and regular standing.' He will be one
of the 'pillars' by and by."
"You are always having a fling at superstition and the superstitious,"
said his daughter, laughingly. "Is that the reason you installed him
in Pat's place?"
"Can you doubt it, my dear?" replied her father, in mock solemnity.
"Well," said she, "I think your new factotum fails decidedly in good
manners, if nothing else. He stared most impudently at me when he came
out from behind the picture. I should have reprimanded him myself if
I had not been so full of laughter at his ridiculous appearance."
"That's the joke of it. It was as good as a play to see him. I never
saw a man more startled and confused. He evidently thought for a moment,
as he said, that the girl in the painting had stepped out upon the
floor, and that you were she."
"How absurd!" exclaimed his daughter.
"Yes; and now that I think of it, he glanced from you to the picture,
to satisfy himself that his senses were not deceiving him, before he
started to come away."
"I cannot see any special resemblance," she replied, at the same time
inwardly pleased that she should be thought like the beautiful creature
on the canvas.
"But there is a strong resemblance," persisted her father, "especially
in general effect. I will prove it to you. There is old Schwartz; he
is not troubled with imagination, but sees things just as they are.
He would look at you, my dainty daughter, as if you were a bale of
wool, and judge as composedly and accurately."
"I fear, my father," replied she, smilingly, "that you have conspired
with him to pull the entire bale over my eyes. But let him come."
By this time Dennis had returned, and commenced dusting some pictures
near the entrance, where he could see and hear. He felt impelled by
a curiosity that he could not resist. Moreover he had a little natural
vanity in wishing to show that he was not such a guy, after all. It
was hard for him to remember that he stood in Pat Murphy's position.
What difference did it make to the lady whether such as he was a fright
Mr. Schwartz entered, and at Mr. Ludolph's bidding looked at the living
and the painted girl. In his slow, sententious tones, one could not
help feeling that he was telling just how things appeared to him. The
young lady stood beside the painting and unconsciously assumed the
expression of her fair shadow. Indeed it seemed an expression but too
habitual to her face.
"Yes," he said, "there is a decided resemblance--close in dress--close
in complexion--color of hair much the same--eyes much alike--Miss
Ludolph not quite so tall," etc. Then with an awkward attempt at a
compliment, like an elephant trying to execute a quickstep, he
"If I may be permitted to be so bold as to speak--express an opinion--I
should beg leave to say that Miss Ludolph favors herself--more
favored--is better-looking," he blurted out at last, backing out of
the door at the same time, with his brow bathed in perspiration from
the throes of this great and unwonted effort at gallantry.
"Bah!" said Dennis to himself, "the old mole left out the very chief
thing in tracing the likeness--the expression! See her now as she
listens to his awkward attempt at compliment. She is looking at him
with the same scornful, laughing face that the girl in the picture
wears toward the bungling admirer at her feet. He is right in one thing
though, she is better-looking."
But the moment Mr. Schwartz's bulky figure vanished from the doorway,
Miss Ludolph caught the critical, intelligent gaze of Dennis Fleet,
and the expression of her face changed instantly to a frown. But, to
do her justice, it was more in vexation with herself than with him.
Her innate delicacy of feeling showed her that it looked like small
vanity to be standing there while comparisons like the above were
instituted. Her manner at once became cold, observant, and thoroughly
self-possessed. She stepped out into the store, and by a few keen,
critical glances seemed to take in its whole effect. Again
disapprobation clouded her fair brow, and she pronounced audibly but
Then she passed into her father's private office.
Dennis's mind was a chaos of conflicting feelings. The picture had
deeply interested him, and so did the beautiful girl that it by strange
coincidence so strongly resembled. It could not be otherwise with one
of his beauty-loving nature. And yet the impression made by the face
in the painting--of something wrong, discordant--was felt more
decidedly in respect to the living face.
But before he had time to realize what had just passed the lady and
her father appeared at the door of the office, and he heard the latter
say: "I know you are right, my dear. It's all wrong. The arrangement
of the store is as stiff and methodical as if we were engaged in selling
mathematical instruments. But I have not time to attend to the matter,
and there is not one in the store that has the least idea of artistic
combination, unless it is Fleet. I have noticed some encouraging
symptoms in him."
"What! he of the duster and mop? I fear our case is desperate, then,
if he is our best hope."
Dennis's cheeks were burning again; but, turning his back, he rubbed
away harder than ever at a Greek god that he was polishing. But they
gave him no thought. Speaking with a sudden animation the young lady
said, "Father, I have a great mind to try it myself--that is, if you
"But, my daughter, I could not permit you to be engaged in any such
employment before our customers."
"Certainly not! I would come early in the morning, before art-customers
are stirring. I really should enjoy the task greatly, if I had any one
to help me who could in some faint degree comprehend the effects I
wished to produce. The long spring mornings soon to come would be just
the time for it. To what better use could I put my taste and knowledge
of art than in helping you and furthering our plan for life?"
Mr. Ludolph hesitated between his pride and his strong desire to gain
the advantages which the acceptance of this offer would secure. Finally
he said: "We will think about it. I am expecting a great many new and
beautiful things early in the spring, and no doubt it would be well
then to rearrange the store completely, and break up the rigid system
into which we have fallen. In the meantime I appreciate your offer,
and thank you warmly."
Dennis's heart leaped within him at the thought of instruction from
such a teacher, and he longed to offer his services. But he rightly
judged that the proposal would be regarded as an impertinence at that
time. The successor of Pat Murphy was not expected to know anything
of art, or have any appreciation of it. So he bent his head lower, but
gave Jupiter Olympus such a rubbing down as the god had deserved long
ago. In a moment more Miss Ludolph passed him on her way out of the
store, noticing him no more than she did his dust-brush.
Mr. Ludolph was the younger son of a noble but impoverished German
family, and was intensely proud of his patrician blood. His parents,
knowing that he would have to make his own way in the world, had sent
him, while a mere boy, to this country, and placed him in charge of
a distant relative, who was engaged in the picture-trade in New York.
He had here learned to speak English in his youth with the fluency and
accuracy of a native, but had never become Americanized, so much family
pride had he inherited, and $o strongly did he cling to the traditions
of his own land.
He showed great business ability in his chosen calling, especially
displaying remarkable judgment in the selection of works of art. So
unusual was his skill in this direction, that when twenty-one years
old he was sent abroad to purchase pictures. For several years he
travelled through Europe. He became quite cosmopolitan in character,
and for a time enjoyed life abundantly. His very business brought him
in contact with artists and men of culture, while his taste and love
of beauty were daily gratified. He had abundant means, and money could
open many doors of pleasure to one who, like him, was in vigorous
health and untroubled by a conscience. Moreover, he was able to spend
much time in his beloved Germany, and while there the great ambition
of his life entered his heart. His elder brother, who was living
inexclusive pride and narrow economy on the ancient but diminished
ancestral estate, ever received him graciously. This brother had
married, but had not been blessed or cursed with children, for the
German baron, with his limited finances, could never decide in what
light to regard them. Too poor to mingle with his equals, too proud
to stoop to those whom he regarded as inferiors, he had lived much
alone, and grown narrower and more bigoted in his family pride day by
day. Indeed, that he was Baron Ludolph, was the one great fact of his
life. He spent hours in conning over yellow, musty records of the
ancient grandeur of his house, and would gloat over heroic deeds of
ancestors he never thought of imitating. In brief, he was like a small
barnacle on an old and water-logged ship, that once had made many a
gallant and prosperous voyage richly freighted, but now had drifted
into shallow water and was falling to decay. He made a suggestion,
however, to his younger brother, that wakened the ambition of the
latter's stronger nature, and set him about what became his controlling
purpose, his life-work.
"Make a fortune in America," said his brother, "and come back and
restore the ancient wealth and glory of your family."
The seed fell into receptive soil, and from that day the art and
pleasure loving citizen of the world became an earnest man with a
purpose. But as he chose his purpose mainly from selfish motives it
did not become an ennobling one. He now gave double attention to
business and practical economy. He at once formed the project of
starting in business for himself, and of putting the large profits
resulting from his judicious selection of pictures into his own pocket.
He made the most careful arrangements, and secured agencies that he
could trust in the purchase of pictures after he should return to the
During his stay in Paris, on his way back, an event occurred that had
a most untoward influence on his plans and hopes. He fell desperately
in love with a beautiful French woman. Like himself, she was poor, but
of patrician blood, and was very fascinating. She attracted him by her
extreme beauty and brilliancy. She was very shrewd, and could seem
anything she chose, being a perfect actress in the false, hollow life
of the world. In accordance with Parisian ideas, she wanted a husband
to pay her bills, to be a sort of protector and base of general
operations. Here was a man who promised well, fine-looking, and, if
not rich, capable of making large sums of money.
She insinuated herself into his confidence, and appeared to share his
enthusiasm for the darling project of his life. He felt that, with
such a beautiful and sympathetic woman to spur him on and share his
success, earth would be a Paradise indeed; and she assured him, in
many delicate and bewitching ways, that it would. In brief, he married
her; and then learned, in bitterness, anger, and disgust, that she had
totally deceived him. To his passionate love she returned indifference;
to his desire for economy, unbounded extravagance, contracting debts
which he must pay to avoid disgrace. She showed an utter unwillingness
to leave the gayety of Paris, laughing in his face at his plan of life,
and assuring him that she would never live in so stupid a place as
Germany. His love died hard. He made every appeal to her that affection
prompted. He tried entreaty, tenderness, coldness, anger, but all in
vain. Selfish to the core, loving him not, utterly unscrupulous, she
trod upon his quivering heart as recklessly as upon the stones of the
street. Soon he saw that, in spite of his vigilance, he was in danger
of being betrayed in all respects. Then he grew hard and fierce. The
whole of his strong German nature was aroused. In a tone and manner
that startled and frightened her, he said: "_We_ sail for New York in
three days. Be ready. If you prove unfaithful to me--if you seek to
desert me, I will _kill_ you. I swear it--not by God, for I don't
believe in Him. If He existed, such creatures as you would not. But I
swear it by my family pride and name, which are dearer to me than life,
if you leave a stain upon them you shall _die_. You need not seek to
escape me. I would follow you through the world. I would kill you on the
crowded street--anywhere, even though I died myself the next moment. And
now look well to your steps."
The glitter of his eye was as cold and remorseless as the sheen of
steel. She saw that he meant and would do just what he said.
The woman had one good point--at least, it turned out to be such in
this case. She was a coward naturally, and her bad life made her dread
nothing so much as death. Her former flippant indifference to his
remonstrances now changed into abject fear. He saw her weak side,
learned his power, and from that time forward kept her within bounds
by a judicious system of terrorism.
He took her to New York and commanded her to appear the charming woman
she could if she chose. She obeyed, and rather enjoyed the excitement
and deceit. His friends were delighted with her, but he received their
congratulations with a grim, quiet smile. At times, though, when she
was entertaining them with all grace, beauty, and sweetness, the thought
of what she was seemed only a horrid dream. But he had merely to catch
her eye, with its gleam of fear and hate, to know the truth.
He felt that he could not trust to the continuance of her good behavior,
and was anxious to get away among strangers as soon as possible. He
therefore closed his business relations in New York. Though she had
crippled him greatly by her extravagance, he had been able to bring
out a fair stock of good pictures, and a large number of articles of
virtue, selected with his usual taste. The old firm, finding that
they could not keep him, offered all the goods he wanted on commission.
in a few weeks he started for Chicago, the most promising city of the
West, as he believed, and established himself there in a modest way.
Still the chances were even against him, for he had involved himself
heavily, and drawn to the utmost on his credit in starting. If he could
not sell largely the first year, he was a broken man. For months the
balance wavered, and he lived with financial ruin on one side, and
domestic ruin on the other. But, with a heart of ice and nerves of
steel, he kept his hand on the helm.
His beautiful collection, though in an unpretentious store, at last
attracted attention, and after some little time it became _the_ thing in
the fashionable world to go there, and from that time forward his
fortune was made.
When his wife became a mother, there was a faint hope in Mr. Ludolph's
heart that this event might awaken the woman within her, if aught of
the true woman existed. He tried to treat her with more kindness, but
found it would not answer. She mistook it for weakness on his part.
From first to last she acted in the most heartless manner, and treated
the child with shameless neglect. This banished from her husband even
the shadow of regard, and he cursed her to her face. Thenceforth will
and ambition controlled his life and hers, and with an iron hand he
held her in check. She saw that she was in the power of a desperate
man, who would sacrifice her in a moment if she thwarted him.
Through cowardly fear she remained his reluctant but abject slave,
pricking him with the pins and needles of petty annoyances, when she
would have pierced him to the heart had she dared. This monstrous state
of affairs could not last forever, and, had not death terminated the
unnatural relation, some terrible catastrophe would no doubt have
occurred. Having contracted a western fever, she soon became delirious,
and passed away in this unconscious state, to the intense joy and
relief of her husband.
But the child lived, thrived, and developed into the graceful girl
whose beauty surpassed, as we have seen, even the painter's ideal. Her
father at first cared little for the infant, but secured it every
attention. As it developed into a pretty girl, however, with winning
ways, and rich promise, he gradually associated her with his hopes and
plans, till at last she became an essential part of his ambition.
His plan now was briefly this: He would entangle himself with no
alliances or intimate associations in America, nor would he permit his
daughter to do so. His only object in staying here was the accumulation
of a large fortune, and to this for a few years he would bend every
energy of mind and body. As soon as he felt that he had sufficient means
to live in such style as befitted the ancient and honorable name
of his family, he would return to Germany, buy all he could of the
ancestral estate that from time to time had been parted with, and
restore his house to its former grandeur. He himself would then seek
a marriage connection that would strengthen his social position, while
his daughter also should make a brilliant alliance with some member
of the nobility. Mr. Ludolph was a handsome, well-preserved man; he
had been most successful in business, and was now more rapidly than
ever accumulating that which is truly a power with Europeans of blue
blood, as with democratic Americans. Moreover, his daughter's beauty
promised to be such that, when enhanced by every worldly advantage,
it might well command attention in the highest circles. He sought with
scrupulous care to give her just the education that would enable her
to shine as a star among the high-born. Art, music, and knowledge of
literature, especially the German, were the main things to which her
attention was directed, and in her father, with his richly stored mind,
faultless taste, and cultured voice, she had an instructor such as
rarely falls to the lot of the most favored.
When Christine Ludolph was about sixteen years of age, events occurred
which might have greatly marred her father's plans. She secretly formed
a most unfortunate attachment, which came near resulting in a
clandestine marriage. Although the world would have judged her harshly,
and the marriage could only have been exceedingly disastrous to her
future life, the motherless girl was not very much to blame. Even among
the mature there is a proverbial blindness in these matters. She was
immature, misled by her imagination, and the victim of uncurbed romantic
fancies. But, after all, the chief incentive to her folly was a natural
craving for the love and sympathy which she had never found in her own
home. To her chilled young heart these gifts were so sweet and
satisfying that she was in no mood to criticise the donor, even had
her knowledge of the world enabled her to do so. Thus far, in his care
of Christine, Mr. Ludolph had conformed to the foreign ideas of
seclusion and repression, and the poor girl, unguided, unguarded by
kind womanly counsel, was utterly unsophisticated, and she might have
easily become the prey of the unscrupulous man whose chief incentive
had been her father's wealth. Mr. Ludolph fortunately discovered the
state of affairs in time to prevent gossip. Under his remorseless
logic, bitter satire, and ridicule her young dream was torn to shreds.
The man whom she had surrounded with a halo of romance was shown to
be worthless and commonplace. Her idol had chiefly been a creature of
the imagination, and when the bald, repulsive truth concerning him had
been proved to her in such a way that she could not escape conviction,
she was equally disgusted with him and herself.
For some weeks Mr. Ludolph treated his daughter with cold distrust.
"She will be like her mother, I suppose," he thought. "Already she has
begun to deceive me and to imperil everything by her folly;" and his
heart was full of bitterness toward his child. Thus the poor girl dwelt
in a chilled and blighting atmosphere at a time when she most sorely
needed kindness and wise guidance.
She was very unhappy, for she saw that her father had lost all
confidence in her. She fairly turned sick when she thought of the past.
She had lived in the world of romance and mystery; she had loved with
all her girlish power; and, however wrongly and unjustly, by the
inevitable laws of association she connected the words "love" and
"romance" with one whom she now detested and loathed. Within a week
after her miserable experience she became as utter a sceptic in regard
to human love, and happiness flowing from it, as her father had taught
her to be respecting God and the joy of believing. Though seemingly
a fair young girl, her father had made her worse than a pagan. She
believed in nothing save art and her father's wisdom. He seemed to
embody the culture and worldly philosophy that now became, in her
judgment, the only things worth living for. To gain his confidence
became her great desire. But this had received a severe shock. Mr.
Ludolph had lost all faith in everything save money and his own will.
Religion was to him a gross superstition, and woman's virtue and truth,
He watched Christine narrowly, and said just enough to draw out the
workings of her mind. He then decided to tell his plan for life, and
give her strong additional motives for doing his will. The picture he
portrayed of the future dazzled her proud, ambitious spirit, and opened
to her fancy what then seemed the only path to happiness. She entered
into his projects with honest enthusiasm, and bound herself by the
most solemn promises to aid in carrying them out. But in bitterness
he remembered one who had promised with seeming enthusiasm before, and
he distrusted his daughter, watching her with lynx-eyed vigilance.
But gradually he began to believe in her somewhat, as he saw her looking
forward with increasing eagerness to the heaven of German fashionable
life, wherein she, rich, admired, allied by marriage to some powerful
noble family, should shine a queen in the world of art.
"I have joined her aspirations to mine," he said, in self-gratulation.
"I have blended our ambitions and sources of hope and enjoyment, and
that is better than all her promises."
When Dennis saw first the face that was so beautiful and yet so marred
by pride and selfishness, Christine was about nineteen years old, and
yet as mature in some respects as a woman of thirty. She had the perfect
self-possession that familiarity with the best society gives. Mr.
Ludolph was now too shrewd to seek safety in seclusion. He went with
his daughter into the highest circles of the city, and Christine had
crowds of admirers and many offers. All this she enjoyed, but took it
coolly as her right, with the air of a Greek goddess accepting the
incense that rose in her temple. She was too proud and refined to flirt
in the ordinary sense of the word, and no one could complain that she
gave much encouragement. But this state of things was all the more
stimulating, and each one believed, with confidence in his peculiar
attractions, that he might succeed where all others had failed. Miss
Ludolph's admirers were unaware that they had a rival in some as yet
unknown German nobleman. At last it passed into a proverb that the
beautiful and brilliant girl who was so free and courtly in society
was as cold and unsusceptible as one of her father's statues.
Thus it would seem that when circumstances brought the threads of these
two lives near each other, Dennis's and Christine's, the most impassable
barriers rose between them, and that the threads could never be woven
together, or the lives blended. She was the daughter of the wealthy,
aristocratic Mr. Ludolph; he was her father's porter.
Next to the love of art, pride and worldly ambition were her strongest
characteristics. She was an unbeliever in God and religion, not from
conviction, but from training. She knew very little about either, and
what light she had came to her through false mediums. She did not even
believe in that which in many young hearts is religion's shadow, love
and romance, nor did her father take a more worldly and practical view
of life than she.
In marked contrast we have seen the character of Dennis Fleet, drawing
its inspiration from such different sources.
Could two human beings be more widely separated--separated in that
which divides more surely than continents and seas?
Could Dennis have seen her warped, deformed moral nature, as clearly
as her beautiful face and form, he would have shrunk from her; but
while recognizing defects, he shared the common delusion, that the
lovely outward form and face must enshrine much that is noble and ready
to blossom into good, if the right motives can be presented.
As for Christine, she had one chance for life, one chance for heaven.
She was _young_. Her nature had not so hardened and crystallized in evil
as to be beyond new and happier influences.
When Dennis entered Mr. Ludolph's store Christine was absent on a visit
to New York. On her return she resumed her old routine. At this time
she and her father were occupying a suite of rooms at a fashionable
hotel. Her school-days were over, Mr. Ludolph preferring to complete
her education himself in accordance with his peculiar views and tastes.
She was just passing into her twentieth year, and looked upon the world
from the vantage points of health, beauty, wealth, accomplishments of
the highest order, and the best social standing. Assurance of a long
and brilliant career possessed her mind, while pride and beauty were
like a coronet upon her brow. She was the world's ideal of a queen.
And yet she was not truly happy. There was ever a vague sense of unrest
and dissatisfaction at heart. She saw that her father was proud and
ambitious in regard to her, but she instinctively felt that he neither
loved nor trusted her to any great extent. She seemed to be living in
a palace of ice, and at times felt that she was turning into ice
herself; but her very humanity and womanhood, deadened and warped
though they were, cried out against the _cold_ of a life without God or
love. In the depths of her soul she felt that something was wrong, but
what, she could not understand. It seemed that she had everything that
heart could wish, and that she ought to be satisfied.
She had at last concluded that her restlessness was the prompting of
a lofty ambition, and that if she chose she could win world-wide
celebrity as an artist. This, with the whole force of her strong nature,
she had determined to do, and for over two years had worked with an
energy akin to enthusiasm. She had resolved that painting should be
the solid structure of her success, and music its ornament.
Nor were her dreams altogether chimerical, for she had remarkable
talent in her chosen field of effort, and had been taught to use the
brush and pencil from childhood. She could imitate with skill and
taste, and express with great accuracy the musical thought of the
composer; but she could not create new effects, and this had already
begun to trouble her. She worked hard and patiently, determined to
succeed. So great had been her application that her father saw the
need of rest and change, and therefore her visit to New York. She had
now returned strengthened, and eager for her former studies, and resumed
them with tenfold zest.
The plan of rearranging the store on artistic principles daily grew
in favor with her. It was just the exercise of taste she delighted in,
and she hoped some day to indulge it on palace walls that would be her
own. Her father's pride caused him to hesitate for some time, but she
said: "Why, Chicago is not our home; we shall soon be thousands of
miles away. You know how little we really care for the opinions of the
people here: it is only our own pride and opinion that we need consult.
I see nothing lowering or unfeminine in the work. I shall scarcely
touch a thing myself, merely direct; for surely among all in your
employ there must be one or two pairs of hands not so utterly awkward
but that they can follow plain instructions. My taste shall do it all.
We are both early risers, and the whole change can be made before the
store is opened. Moreover," she added (with an expression indicating
that she would have little difficulty in ruling her future German
castle, and its lord also), "this is an affair of our own. Those you
employ ought to understand by this time that it is neither wise nor
safe to talk of our business outside."
After a moment's thought she concluded: "I really think that the proper
arrangement of everything in the store as to light, display, and effect,
so that people of taste will be pleased when they enter, would add
thousands of dollars to your sales; and this rigid system of old
Schwartz's, which annoys us both beyond endurance, will be broken up."
Won over by arguments that accorded with his inclinations, Mr. Ludolph
gave his daughter permission to carry out the plan in her own way.
She usually accompanied her father to the store in the morning. He,
after a brief glance around, would go to his private office and attend
to correspondence. She would do whatever her mood prompted. Sometimes
she would sit down for a half-hour before one picture; again she would
examine most critically a statue or a statuette. Whenever new music
was received, she looked it over and carried off such pieces as pleased
She evidently was a privileged character, and no one save her father
exercised the slightest control over her movements. She treated all
the clerks, save old Schwartz, as if they were animated machines; and
by a quiet order, as if she had touched a spring, would set them in
motion to do her bidding. The young men in the store were of German
descent, and rather heavy and undemonstrative. Mr. Schwartz's system
of order and repression had pretty thoroughly quenched them. They were
educated to the niches they filled, and seemed to have no thought
beyond; therefore they were all unruffled at Miss Ludolph's air of
absolute sovereignty. Mr. Schwartz was as obsequious as the rest, but,
as second to her father in power, was permitted some slight familiarity.
In fact this heavy, stolid prime-minister both amused and annoyed her,
and she treated him with the caprice of a child toward an elephant
--at times giving him the sugar-plum of a compliment, and oftener
pricking him with the pin of some caustic remark. To him she was the
perfection of womankind--her reserved, dispassionate manner, her steady,
unwearied prosecution of a purpose, being just the qualities that he
most honored; and he worshipped her reverently at a distance, like an
old astrologer adoring some particularly bright fixed star. No whisking
comets or changing satellites for old Schwartz.
As for Dennis, she treated him as she probably had treated Pat Murphy,
and for several days had no occasion to notice him at all. In fact he
kept out of her way, choosing at first to observe rather than be
observed. She became an artistic study to him, for her every movement
was grace itself, except that there was no softness or gentleness in
her manner. Her face fascinated him by its beauty, though its expression
troubled him--it was so unlike his mother's, so unlike what he felt
a woman's ought to be. But her eager interest in that which was becoming
so dear to him--art--would have covered a multitude of sins in his
eyes, and with a heart abounding in faith and hope, not yet diminished
by hard experience, he believed that the undeveloped angel existed
within her. But he remembered her frown when she had first noticed his
observation of her. The shrewd Yankee youth saw that her pride would
not brook even a curious glance. But while he kept at a most respectful
distance he felt that there was no such wide gulf between them as she
imagined. By birth and education he was as truly entitled to her
acquaintance as the young men who sometimes came into the store with
her and whom she met in society. Position and wealth were alone wanting,
and in spite of his hard experience and lowly work he felt that there
must be some way for him, as for others, to win these.
He longed for the society of ladies, as every right-feeling young man
does, and to one of his nature the grace and beauty of woman
were peculiarly attractive. If, before she came, the lovely faces of the
pictures had filled the place with a sort of witchery, and created
about him an atmosphere in which his artist-soul was awakening into
life and growth, how much more would it be true of this living vision
of beauty that glided in and out every day!
"She does not notice me," he at first said to himself, "any more than
do these lovely shadows upon the canvas. But why need I care? I can
study both them and her, and thus educate my eye, and I hope my hand,
to imitate and perhaps surpass their perfections in time."
But this cool, philosophic mood did not last long. It might answer
very well in regard to the pictures on the walls, but there was a
magnetism about this living, breathing woman that soon caused him to
long for the privilege of being near her and speaking to her of that
subject that interested them both so deeply. Though he had never seen
any of her paintings to know them, he soon saw that she was no novice
in such matters and that she looked at works of art with the eye of
a connoisseur. In revery he had many a spirited conversation with her,
and he trusted that some day his dreams would become real. He had the
romantic hope that if she should discover his taste and strong love
of art she might at first bestow upon him a patronizing interest which
would gradually grow into respect and acknowledged equality.
SHE SPEAKS TO HIM
After the plan for the re-arrangement of the store had been determined
upon, Miss Ludolph began to study its topography. She went regularly
through the building, examining closely every part and space, sometimes
sketching a few outlines in a little gilt book. Apparently she was
seeking by her taste to make the show-rooms pictures in themselves,
wherein all the parts should blend harmoniously, and create one
beautiful effect. Dennis saw what was coming. The carrying-out of the
plan he had heard discussed, and he wished with intense longing that
he might be her assistant. But she would as soon have thought of sending
for Pat Murphy. She intended to select one of the older clerks to aid
her. Still Dennis hoped that by some strange and happy turn of fortune
part of this work might fall to him.
Every spare moment of early morning and evening he spent in sketching
and studying, but he sadly felt the need of instruction, and of money
to buy materials. He was merely groping his way as best he might; and
he felt that Miss Ludolph could teach him so much, if she would only
condescend to the task! He was willing to be a very humble learner at
first. If in some way he could only make known his readiness to pick
up the crumbs of knowledge that she might be willing out of kindness
to scatter in his path, he might expect something from ordinary good
But a week or two passed without his receiving so much as a glance
from those cold blue eyes that rested so critically on all before them;
and on an unlucky day in March all hope of help from her vanished.
Under the influence of spring the streets were again becoming muddy,
and his duties as bootblack increased daily. He had arranged to perform
this menial task in a remote corner of the store, as much out of sight
as possible. The duty had become still more disagreeable since the
young lady haunted the place, for he feared she would learn to associate
him only with the dust-brush and blacking-brush.
Just behind where he usually stood, a good picture had been hung, under
Mr. Schwartz's system, simply because it accurately fitted the space.
It was in a wretched light, and could never be seen or appreciated
there. Miss Ludolph in her investigations and plannings discovered
this at a time most unfortunate for poor Dennis. While polishing away
one morning, he suddenly became conscious that she was approaching.
It seemed that she was looking directly at him, and was about to speak.
His heart thumped like a trip-hammer, his cheeks burned, and a blur
came over his eyes, for he was diffident in ladies' presence. Therefore
he stood before her the picture of confusion, with a big boot poised
in one hand, and the polishing-brush in the other. With the instincts
of a gentleman, however, he made an awkward bow, feeling, though, that
under the circumstances his politeness could only appear ridiculous.
And he was right. It was evident from the young lady's face that her
keen perception of the ridiculous was thoroughly aroused. But for the
sake of her own dignity (she cared not a jot for him), she bit her lip
to control her desire to laugh in his face, and said, rather sharply,
"Will you stand out of my way?"
_She had spoken to him._
He was so mortified and confused that in his effort to obey he partially
fell over a bronze sheep, designed to ornament some pastoral scene,
and the heel of Mr. Schwartz's heavy boot came down with a thump that
made everything ring. There was a titter from some of the clerks. Mr.
Ludolph, who was following his daughter, exclaimed, "What's the matter,
Fleet? You seem rather unsteady, this morning, for a church member."
For a moment he had the general appearance usually ascribed to the
sheep, his unlucky stumbling-block. But by a strong effort he recovered
himself. Deigning no reply, he set his teeth, compressed his lips,
picked up the boot, and polished away as before, trying to look and
feel regardless of all the world. In fact there was as much pride in
his face as there had ever been in hers. But, not noticing him, she
said to her father: "Here is a specimen. Look where this picture is
hung. In bootblack corner I should term it. It would not sell here in
a thousand years, for what little light there is would be obscured
much of the time by somebody's big boots and the artist in charge. It
has evidently been placed here in view of one principle
alone--dimensions; its length and breadth according with the space in
the corner. You will see what a change I will bring about in a month
or two, after my plans are matured;" and then she strolled to another
part of the store. But, before leaving, Miss Ludolph happened to glance
at Dennis's face, and was much struck by its expression. Surely Pat
Murphy never would or could look like that. For the first time the
thought entered her mind that Dennis might be of a different clay and
character from Pat. But the next moment his expression of pride and
offended dignity, in such close juxtaposition to the big boot he was
twirling almost savagely around, again appealed to her sense of the
ludicrous, and she turned away with a broad smile. Dennis, looking up,
saw the smile and guessed the cause; and when, a moment after, Mr.
Schwartz appeared, asking in his loud, blunt way, "My boots ready?"
he felt like flinging both at his head, and leaving the store forever.
Handing them to him without a word, he hastened upstairs, for he felt
that he must be alone.
At first his impulse was strong to rebel--to assert that by birth and
education he was a gentleman, and must be treated as such, or he would
go elsewhere. But, as the tumult in his mind calmed, the case became
as clear to him as a sum in addition. He had voluntarily taken Pat
Murphy's place, and why should he complain at Pat's treatment? He had
pledged his word that there should be no trouble from his being above
his business, and he resolved to keep his word till Providence gave
him better work to do. He bathed his hot face in cool water, breathed
a brief prayer for strength and patience, and went back to his tasks
strong and calm.
Late in the afternoon of the same day (which was Saturday), as Mr.
Ludolph was passing out of the store on his way home, he noticed the
table that he had arranged artistically some little time before as a
lesson to his clerks. Gradually it had fallen back into its old straight
lines and rigid appearance. He seemed greatly annoyed.
"What is the use of re-arranging the store?" he muttered. "They will
have it all back again on the general principle of a ramrod in a little
while. But we have put our hands to this work, and it shall be carried
through, even if I discharge half of these wooden-heads."
Then calling the clerk in charge, he said, "Look here, Mr. Berder, I
grouped the articles on this counter for you once, did I not?"
"Let me find them Monday morning just as I arranged them on that
The young man looked as blank and dismayed as if he had been ordered
to swallow them all before Monday morning.
He went to work and jumbled them up as if that were grouping them, and
then asked one or two of the other clerks what they thought of it.
They shook their heads, and said it looked worse than before.
"I vill study over him all day to-morrow, and den vill come early
Monday and fix him;" and the perplexed youth took himself off.
Dennis felt almost sure that he could arrange it as Mr. Ludolph had
done, or with something of the same effect, but did not like to offer
his services, not knowing how they would be received, for Mr. Berder
had taken special delight in snubbing him.
After the duties of the store were over, Dennis wrote to his mother
a warm, bright, filial letter, portraying the scene of the day in its
comic light, making all manner of fun of himself, that he might hide
the fact that he had suffered. But he did not hide it, as a return
letter proved, for it was full of sympathy and indignation that
_her_ son should be so treated, but also full of praise for his
Christian manliness and patience.
"And now, my son," she wrote, "let me tell you of at least two
results of your steady, faithful performance of your present humble
duties. The money you send so regularly is more than sufficient for
our simple wants. We have every comfort, and I am laying something by
for sickness and trouble, for both are pretty sure to come before long
in this world. In the second place, you have given me that which is
far better than money--comfort and strength. I feel more and more that
we can lean upon you as our earthly support, and not find you a 'broken
reed.' While so many sons are breaking their mothers' hearts, you are
filling mine with hope and joy. I am no prophetess, my son, but from
the sure word of God I predict for you much happiness and prosperity
for thus cheering and providing for your widowed mother. Mark my words.
God has tried you and not found you wanting. He will soon give you
better work to do--work more in keeping With your character and
This prediction was fulfilled before Dennis received the letter
containing it, and it happened on this wise.
Early on Monday morning Mr. Berder appeared and attempted the hopeless
task of grouping the articles on his table in accordance with Mr.
Ludolph's orders. After an hour's work he exclaimed in despair, "I
cannot do him to save my life."
Dennis at a distance, with a half-amused, half-pitying face, had watched
Mr. Berder's wonderful combinations, and when Rip Van Winkle was placed
between two togated Roman senators, and Ichabod Crane arranged as if
making love to a Greek goddess, he came near laughing outright. But
when Mr. Berder spoke he approached and said, kindly and respectfully,
"Will you let me try to help you?"
"Yes," said Mr. Berder; "you cannot make dings vorse."
Acting upon this ungracious permission, Dennis folded his arms and
studied the table for five minutes.
"Come," said Mr. Berder, "standing dere and looking so vise as an owl
von't help matters. Mr. Ludolph vill be here soon."
"I am not losing time," said Dennis; and a moment proved he was not,
for, having formed a general plan of arrangement, he went rapidly to
work, and in a quarter of an hour could challenge Mr. Ludolph or any
other critic to find serious fault.
"There! I could do better if I had more time, but I must go to my
sweeping and dusting, or Mr. Schwartz will be down on me, and he is
pretty heavy, you know. I never saw such a man--he can see a grain of
dust half across the store."
Mr. Berder had looked at Dennis's quick, skilful motions in blank
amazement, and then broke out into an unwonted panegyric for him: "I
say, Vleet, dot's capital! Where you learn him?" Then in a paroxysm
of generosity he added, "Dere's a quarter for you."
"No, I thank you," said Dennis, "I did not do it for money."
"Vat did der fool do it for, den, I'd like to know?" muttered Mr.
Berder, the philosophy of bid life resuming its former control. "Saved
a quarter, anyhow, and, vat's more, know vere to go next dime der old
man comes down on me."
A little after nine Mr. and Miss Ludolph came in, and paused at the
table. Dennis, unnoticed, stood behind Benjamin Franklin and Joan of
Arc, placed lovingly together on another counter, face to face, as if
in mutual admiration, and from his hiding-place watched the scene
before him with intense anxiety. One thought only filled his mind--Would
they approve or condemn his taste? for he had arranged the table on
a plan of his own. His heart gave a glad bound when Mr. Ludolph said:
"Why, Berder, this is excellent. To be sure you have taken your own
method, and followed your own taste, but I find no fault with that,
when you produce an effect like this."
"I declare, father," chimed in Miss Ludolph, "this table pleases me
greatly. It is a little oasis in this great desert of a store. Mr.
Berder, I compliment you on your taste. You shall help me rearrange,
artistically, everything in the building."
Dennis, in his agitation, came near precipitating Benjamin Franklin
into the arms of Joan of Arc, a position scarcely in keeping with
"Yes, Christine, that is true," continued Mr. Ludolph, "Mr. Berder
will be just the one to help you, and I am glad you have found one
competent. By all the furies! just compare this table with the one
next to it, where the Past, Present, and Future have not the slightest
regard for each other, and satyrs and angels, philosophers and bandits,
are mixed up about as closely as in real life. Here, Berder, try you
hand at this counter also; and you, young men, gather round and see
the difference when _art_, instead of mathematics, rules the world of
art. If this thing goes on, we shall have the golden age back again in
Mr. Berder, though somewhat confused, had received all his compliments
with bows and smiles. But Dennis, after his thrill of joy at having
pleased Mr. and Miss Ludolph's fastidious taste, felt himself reddening
with honest indignation that Mr. Berder should carry off all his laurels
before his face. But he resolved to say nothing, knowing that time
would right him. When Mr. Ludolph asked the young men to step forward,
he came with the others.
"That's right, Fleet," said Mr. Ludolph, again, "you can get a useful
hint, too, like enough."
"Nonsense, father," said Miss Ludolph, in a tone not so low but that
Dennis heard it; "why spoil a good sweeper and duster by putting uppish
notions in his head? He keeps the store cleaner than any man you ever
had, and I don't soil my dresses as I used to."
Dennis's color heightened a little, and his lips closed more firmly,
but he gave no other sign that he heard this limitation of his hope
and ambition. But it cut him rather deep. The best he could ever do,
then, in her view, was to keep her dresses from being soiled.
In the meantime Mr. Berder had shown great embarrassment at Mr.
Ludolph's unexpected request. After a few moments of awkward hesitation
he stammered out that he could do it better alone. The suspicion of
keen Mr. Ludolph was at once aroused and he persisted: "Oh, come, Mr.
Berder, we don't expect you to do your best in a moment, but a person
of your taste can certainly make a great change for the better in the
table before you."
In sheer desperation the entrapped youth attempted the task, but he
had not bungled five minutes before Mr. Ludolph said, sharply, "Mr.
Berder, you did not arrange this table."
"Vell," whined Mr. Berder, "I didn't say dot I did."
"You caused me to believe that you did," said Mr. Ludolph, his brow
growing dark. "Now, one question, and I wish the truth: Who did
arrange this table?"
"Vleet, dere, helped me," gasped Mr. Berder.
"_Helped_ you? Mr. Fleet, step forward, if you please, for I intend to
have the truth of this matter. How much help did Mr. Berder give you in
arranging this table?"
"None, sir," said Dennis, looking straight into Mr. Ludolph's eyes.
All looked with great surprise at Dennis, especially Miss Ludolph, who
regarded him most curiously. "How different he appears from Pat Murphy!"
she again thought.
"Some one has told a lie, now," said Mr. Ludolph, sternly. "Mr. Fleet,
I shall put you to the same test that Berder failed in. Arrange that
counter sufficiently well to prove that it was your hands that arranged
Dennis stepped forward promptly, but with a pale face and compressed
lips. Feeling that both honor and success were at stake, he grouped
and combined everything as before, as far as the articles would permit,
having no time to originate a new plan. As he worked, the clerks gazed
in open astonishment, Mr. Ludolph looked significantly at his daughter,
while she watched him with something of the same wonder which we have
when one of the lower animals shows human sagacity and skill.
Mr. Ludolph was Napoleonic in other respects than his ambition and
selfishness. He was shrewd enough to "promote on the field for
meritorious services." Therefore, as Dennis's task approached
completion, he said: "That will do, Mr. Fleet, you can finish the work
at your leisure. Mr. Berder, you are discharged from this day for
deception. I would have borne with your incompetency if you had been
truthful. But I never trust any one who has deceived me once," he said,
so sternly that even Christine's cheek paled. "Mr. Schwartz will settle
with you, and let me never see or hear from you again. Mr. Fleet, I
promote you to Mr. Berder's counter and pay."
Thus this man of the world, without a thought of pity, mercy, or kindly
feeling in either case, gave one of his clerks a new impetus toward
the devil, and another an important lift toward better things, and
then went his way, congratulating himself that all things had worked
together for his good, that morning, though where he would find another
Dennis Fleet to fill Pat's place, again vacant, he did not know.
But Miss Ludolph looked at Dennis somewhat kindly, and with a little
honest admiration in her face. He was very different from what she had
as a matter of course supposed him to be, and had just done in a quiet,
manly way a thing most pleasing to her, so she said with a smile that
seemed perfectly heavenly to him, "_You_ are above blacking boots, sir."
JUST IN TIME
At the close of the day on which Dennis received his promotion, and
his horizon was widened so unexpectedly, Mr. Ludolph, in passing out,
noticed him engaged as usual on one of Pat Murphy's old tasks. He
stopped and spoke kindly, "Well, Fleet, where am I going to find a man
to fill your place made vacant to-day?"
"Would you be willing to listen to a suggestion from me?"
"If a young boy was employed to black boots, run errands, and attend
to minor matters, I think that by industry I might for a while fill
both positions. In a short time the furnace will require no further
attention. I am a very early riser, and think that by a little good
management I can keep the store in order and still be on hand to attend
to my counter when customers are about."
Mr. Ludolph was much pleased with the proposition, and said, promptly,
"You may try it, Fleet, and I will pay you accordingly. Do you know
of a boy who will answer?"
"I think I do, sir. There is a German lad in my mission class who has
interested me very much. His father is really a superior artist, but
is throwing himself away with drink, and his mother is engaged in an
almost hopeless effort to support the family. They have seen much
better days, and their life seems very hard in contrast with the past."
"Can we trust such a boy? Their very necessities may lead to theft."
"They are not of the thieving sort, sir. I am satisfied that they would
all starve rather than touch a penny that did not belong to them."
"Very well, then, let him come and see me; but I will hold you
responsible for him."
Mr. Ludolph, being in a good humor, was disposed to banter Dennis, so
he added: "Do you find time to be a missionary, also? Are you not in
danger of becoming a 'Jack at all trades'?"
"I am not entitled to the first character, and hope to shun the latter.
I merely teach a dozen boys in a mission school on Sundays."
"When you ought to be taking a good long nap, or a row on the lake for
fresh air and recreation."
"I should be dishonest if I spent my Sabbaths in that way."
"I should give the lie to my profession and belief. I must drop the
name of Christian when I live for myself."
"And if you should drop it, do you think you would be much the loser?"
"Yes, sir," said Dennis, with quiet emphasis.
"You are expecting great reward, in some sort of Paradise, for your
mission work, etc.?"
"Nothing done for God is forgotten or unrewarded."
"Believing that, it seems to me that you are looking after self-interest
as much as the rest of us," said his employer, with a shrewd smile.
Looking straight into Mr. Ludolph's eyes, Dennis said, earnestly:
"Without boasting, I think that I can say that I try to serve you
faithfully. If you could see my heart, I am sure you would find that
gratitude for your kindness is a part of my motive, as well as my
wages. In the same manner, while I do not lose sight of the rich rewards
God promises and daily gives for the little I can do for Him, I am
certain that I can do much out of simple gratitude and love, and ask
"Ignorance is certainly bliss in your case, young man. Stick to your
harmless superstition as long as you can."
And he walked away, muttering: "Delusion, delusion! I have not said
a word or done a thing for him in which I had not in view my interests
only, and yet the poor young fool sees in the main disinterested
kindness. Little trouble have the wily priests in imposing on such
victims, and so they get their hard-earned wages and set them
propagating the delusion in mission schools, when mind and body need
change and rest. Suppose there is a Supreme Being in the universe,
what a monstrous absurdity to imagine that He would trouble Himself
to reward this Yankee youth for teaching a dozen ragamuffins in a
tenement-house mission school!"
Thus Mr. Ludolph's soliloquy proved that his own pride and selfishness
had destroyed the faculty by which he could see God. The blind are not
more oblivious to color than he was to those divine qualities which
are designed to win and enchain the heart. A man may sadly mutilate
his own soul.
At a dainty dinner-table Mr. Ludolph and his daughter discussed the
events of the day.
"I am glad," said the latter, "that he is willing to fill Pat's place,
for he keeps everything so clean. A dusty, slovenly store is my
abomination. Then it shows that he has no silly, uppish notions so
common to these Americans." (Though born here, Miss Ludolph never
thought herself other than a German lady of rank.) "But I do not wish
to see him blacking boots again. Yet he is an odd genius. How comical
he looked bowing to me with one of Mr. Schwartz's big boots describing
a graceful curve on a level with his head. Let old Schwartz black his
own boots. He ought to as a punishment for carrying around so much
leather. This Fleet must have seen better days. He is like all Yankees,
however, sharp after the dollar, though he seems more willing to work
for it than most of them."
"I'll wager you a pair of gloves," said her father, "that they get a
good percentage of it down at the mission school. He is just the subject
for a cunning priest, because he sincerely believes in their foolery.
He belongs to a tribe now nearly extinct, I imagine--the martyrs, who
in old-fashioned times died for all sorts of delusions."
"How time mellows and changes everything! There is something heroic
and worthy of art in the ancient martyrdoms, while nothing is more
repulsive than modern fanaticism. It is a shame, though, that this
young man, with mother and sisters to support, should be robbed of his
hard earnings as was Pat Murphy by his priest, and I will try to open
his eyes some day."
"I predict for you no success."
"Why so?--he seems intelligent."
"I have not studied character all my life in vain. He would regard
you, my fair daughter, as the devil in the form of an angel of light
"He had better not be so plain-spoken as yourself."
"Oh, no need of Fleet's speaking; his face is like the page of an open
"Indeed! a face like a sign-board is a most unfortunate one, I should
"Most fortunate for us. I wish I could read every one as I can Fleet."
"You trust no one, I believe, father."
"I believe what I see and know."
"I wish I had your power of seeing and knowing. But how did he get his
artistic knowledge and taste?"
"That I have not inquired into fully, as yet. I think he has an unusual
native aptness for these things, and gains hints and instruction where
others would see nothing. And, as you say, in the better days past he
may have had some advantages."
"Well," said she, caressing the greyhound beside her, "if Wolf here
should go to the piano and execute an opera, I should not be more
astonished than I was this morning."
And then their conversation glided off on other topics.
After dessert, Mr. Ludolph lighted a cigar and sat down to the evening
paper, while his daughter evoked from the piano true after-dinner
music--light, brilliant, mirth-inspiring. Then both adjourned to their
The scene of our story now changes from Mr. Ludolph's luxurious
apartments in one of the most fashionable hotels in the city to a
forlorn attic in De Koven Street. It is the scene of a struggle as
desperate, as heroic, against as tremendous odds, as was ever carried
on in the days of the Crusades. But as the foremost figure in this
long, weary conflict was not an armed and panoplied knight, but merely
a poor German woman, only God and the angels took much interest in it.
Still upon this evening she was almost vanquished. She seemed to have
but one vantage-point left on earth. For a wonder, her husband was
comparatively sober, and sat brooding with his head in his hands over
the stove where a fire was slowly dying out. The last coal they had
was fast turning to ashes. From a cradle came a low, wailing cry. It
was that of hunger. On an old chest in a dusky corner sat a boy about
thirteen. Though all else was in shadow, his large eyes shone with
unnatural brightness, and followed his mother's feeble efforts at the
washtub with that expression of premature sadness so pathetic in
childhood. Under a rickety deal table three other and smaller children
were devouring some crusts of bread in a ravenous way, like
half-famished young animals. In a few moments they came out and clamored
for more, addressing--not their father; no intuitive turning to him
for support--but the poor, over-tasked mother. The boy came out of his
corner and tried to draw them off and interest them in something else,
but they were like a pack of hungry little wolves. The boy's face was
almost as sharp and famine-pinched as his mother's, but he seemed to
have lost all thought of himself in his sorrowful regard for her. As
the younger children clamored and dragged upon her, the point of
endurance was passed, and the poor woman gave way. With a despairing
cry she sank upon a chair and covered her face with her apron.
"Oh, mine Gott, Oh, mine Gott," she cried, "I can do not von more
stroke if ve all die."
In a moment her son had his arms around her neck, and said: "Oh, moder,
don't cry, don't cry. Mr. Fleet said God would surely help us in time
of trouble if we would only ask Him."
"I've ask Him, and ask Him, but der help don't come. I can do no more;"
and a tempest of despairing sobs shook her gaunt frame.
The boy seemed to have got past tears, and just fixed his large eyes,
full of reproach and sorrow, on his father.
The man rose and turned his bloodshot eyes slowly around the room. The
whole scene, with its meaning, seemed to dawn upon him. His mind was
not so clouded by the fumes of liquor but that he could comprehend the
supreme misery of the situation. He heard his children crying--fairly
howling for bread. He saw the wife he had sworn to love and honor,
where she had fallen in her unequal conflict, brave, but overpowered.
He remembered the wealthy burgher's blooming, courted daughter, whom
he had lured away to marry him, a poor artist. He remembered how, in
spite of her father's commands and her mother's tears, she had left
home and luxury to follow him throughout the world because of her faith
in him and love for him--how under her inspiration he had risen to
great promise as an artist, till fame and fortune became almost
a certainty, and then, under the debasing influence of his terrible
appetite, he had dragged her down and down, till now he saw
her--prematurely old, broken in health, broken in heart--fall helplessly
before the hard drudgery that she no longer had strength to perform.
With a sickening horror he remembered that he had taken even the
pittance she had wrung from that washtub, to feed, not his children,
but his accursed appetite for drink. Even his purple, bloated face
grew livid as all the past rushed upon him, and despair laid an icy
hand upon his heart.
A desperate purpose formed itself within his mind.
Turning to the wall where hung a noble picture, a lovely landscape,
whose rich coloring, warm sunlight, and rural peace formed a sharp,
strange contrast with the meagre, famine-stricken apartment, he was
about to take it down from its fastening when his hand was arrested
by a word--"Father!"
He turned, and saw his son looking at him with his great eyes full of
horror and alarm, as if he were committing a murder.
"I tell you I must, and I vill," said he, savagely.
His wife looked up, sprang to his side, and with her hands upon his
arm, said, "No, Berthold, you must not, you shall not sell dot picture."
He silently pointed to his children crying for bread.
"Take der dress off my back to sell, but not dot picture. Ve may as
vell die before him goes, for we certainly vill after. Dot is de only
ding left of der happy past. Dot, in Gott's hands, is my only hope for
der future. Dot picture dells you vat you vas, vat you might be still
if you vould only let drink alone. Many's der veary day, many's der
long night, I've prayed dot dot picture vould vin you back to your
former self, ven tears and sufferings vere in vain. Leave him, and
some day he vill tell you so plain vat you are, and vot you can be,
dot you break der horrid spell dot chains you, and your artist-soul
come again. Leave him, our only hope, and sole bar against despair and
death. I vill go and beg a dousand times before dot picture's sold;
for if he goes, your artist-soul no more come back, and you're lost,
and ve all are lost."
The man hesitated. His good angel was pleading with him, but in vain.
Stamping his foot with rage and despair, he shouted, hoarsely, "It is
too late I am lost now."
And he tore the picture from its fastening. His wife sank back against
the wall with a groan as if her very soul were departing.
But before his rash steps could leave the desolation he had made, he
was confronted by the tall form of Dennis Fleet.
The man stared at him for a moment as if he had been an apparition,
and then said, in a hard tone, "Let me pass!"
Dennis had knocked for some time, but such was the excitement within
no one had regarded the sound. He had, therefore, heard the wife's
appeal and its answer, and from what he knew of the family from his
mission scholar, the boy Ernst, comprehended the situation in the main.
When, therefore, matters reached the crisis, he opened the door and
met the infatuated man as he was about to throw away the last relic
of his former self and happier life. With great tact he appeared as
if he knew nothing, and quietly taking a chair he sat down with his
back against the door, thus barring egress. In a pleasant, affable
tone, he said: "Mr. Bruder, I came to see you on a little business
to-night. As I was in something of a hurry, and no one appeared to
hear my knock, I took the liberty of coming in."
The hungry little ones looked at him with their round eyes of childish
curiosity, and for a time ceased their clamors. The wife sank into a
chair and bowed her head in her hands with the indifference of despair.
Hope had gone. A gleam of joy lighted up Ernst's pale face at the sight
of his beloved teacher, and he stepped over to his mother and commenced
whispering in her ear, but she heeded him not. The man's face wore a
sullen, dangerous, yet irresolute expression. It was evident that he
half believed that Dennis was knowingly trying to thwart him, and such
was his mad frenzy that he was ready for any desperate deed.
In a tone of suppressed excitement, which he tried in vain to render
steady, Mr. Bruder said: "You haf der advantage of me, sir. I know not
your name. Vat is more, I am not fit for bissiness dis night. Indeed,
I haf important bissiness elsewhere. You must excuse me," he added,
sternly, advancing toward the door with the picture.
"Pardon me, Mr. Bruder," said Dennis, politely. "I throw myself entirely
on your courtesy, and must ask as a very great favor that you will not
take away that picture till I see it, for that, in part, is what I
came for. I am in the picture trade myself, and think I am a tolerably
fair judge of paintings. I heard accidentally you had a fine one, and
from the glimpse I catch of it, I think I have not been misinformed.
If it is for sale, perhaps I can do as well by you as any one else.
I am employed in Mr. Ludolph's great store, the 'Art Building.' You
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