Barriers Burned Away
E. P. Roe
Part 3 out of 9
probably know all about the place."
"Yes, I know him," said the man, calming down somewhat.
"And now, sir," said Dennis, with a gentle, winning courtesy impossible
to resist, "will you do me the favor of showing me your picture?"
He treated poor Bruder as a gentleman, and he, having really been one,
was naturally inclined to return like courtesy. Therefore he said,
"Oh, certainly, since you vish to see him. I suppose I might as vell
sell him to you as any von else."
Mr. Bruder was a man of violent impulses, and his mad excitement was
fast leaving him under Dennis's cool, business-like manner. To gain
time was now the great desideratum.
The picture having been replaced upon the wall, Mr. Bruder held the
lamp so as to throw upon it as good a light as possible.
Dennis folded his arms calmly and commenced its study. He had meant
to act a part---to pretend deep interest and desire for long critical
study---that he might secure more time, but in a few moments he became
honestly absorbed in the beautiful and exquisitely finished landscape.
The poor man watched him keenly. Old associations and feelings,
seemingly long dead, awoke. As he saw Dennis manifest every mark of
true and growing appreciation, he perceived that his picture was being
studied by a discriminating person. Then his artist-nature began to
quicken into life again. His eyes glowed, and glanced rapidly from
Dennis to the painting, back and forth, following up the judgment on
each and every part which he saw written in the young man's face. As
he watched, something like hope and exultation began to light up his
sullen, heavy features; thought and feeling began to spiritualize and
ennoble what but a little before had been so coarse and repulsive.
Ernst was looking at Dennis in rapt awe, as at a messenger from heaven.
The poor wife, who had listened in a dull apathy to the conversation,
raised her head in sudden and intelligent interest when the picture
was replaced upon the wall. It seemed that her every hope was bound
up in that. As she saw Dennis and her husband standing before it---as
she saw the face of the latter begin to assume something of its former
look---her whole soul came into her great blue eyes, and she watched
as if more than life were at stake.
If that meagre apartment, with its inmates, their contrasts of
character, their expressive faces, could have then been portrayed, it
would have made a picture with power to move the coldest heart.
At last Dennis drew a long breath, turned and gave his hand to the
man, saying with hearty emphasis, "Mr. Bruder, you are an artist."
The poor man lifted his face to heaven with the same expression of joy
and gratitude that had rested on it long, long years ago, when his
first real work of merit had received similar praise.
His wife saw and remembered it, and, with an ecstatic cry that thrilled
Dennis's soul, exclaimed, "Ah! mine Gott be praised! mine Gott be
praised! his artist-soul come back!" and she threw herself on her
husband's neck, and clung to him with hysteric energy. The man melted
completely, and bowed his head upon his wife's shoulder, while his
whole frame shook with sobs.
"I will be back in half an hour," said Dennis, hastily, brushing tears
from his own eyes. "Come with me, Ernst."
At the foot of the stairs Dennis said: "Take this money, Ernst, and
buy bread, butter, tea, milk, and coal, also a nice large steak, for
I am going to take supper with you to-night. I will stay here and
watch, for your father must not be permitted to go out."
"Oh, Gott bless you! Gott bless you!" said the boy, and he hurried
away to do his errand.
Dennis walked up and down before the door on guard. Ernst soon returned,
and carried the welcome food upstairs. After a little time he stole
down again and said: "Father's quiet and queer like. Mother has given
the children a good supper and put them to bed. Better come now."
"In a few moments more; you go back and sit down quietly and say
After a little Dennis went up and knocked at the door. Mrs. Bruder
opened it, and held out her hand. Her quivering lips refused to speak,
but her eyes filled with grateful tears. The children were tucked away
in bed. Ernst crouched by the fire, eating some bread and butter, for
he was cold and half-famished. Mr. Bruder sat in the dusky corner with
his head in his hands, the picture of dejection. But, as Dennis entered,
he rose and came forward. He tried to speak, but for a moment could
not. At last he said, hoarsely: "Mr. Vleet, you haf done me and mine
a great kindness. No matter vat the result is, I dank you as I never
danked any living being. I believe Gott sent you, but I fear too late.
You see before you a miserable wreck. For months and years I haf been
a brute, a devil. Dot picture dere show you vat I vas, vat I might haf
been. You see vat I am," he added, with an expression of intense
loathing. "I see him all to-night as if written in letters of fire,
and if dere is a vorse hell dan der von I feel vithin my soul, Gott
only knows how I am to endure him."
"Mr. Bruder, you say I have done you a favor."
"Gott knows you haf."
"I want you to do me one in return. I want you to let me be your
friend," said Dennis, holding out his hand.
The man trembled, hesitated; at last he said, brokenly, "I am not
fit--to touch--your hand."
"Mr. Bruder," said Dennis, gently, "I hope that I am a Christian."
"Still more, den, I am unfit efer to be in your presence."
"What! am I greater than my Master? Did not Christ take the hand of
every poor, struggling man on earth that would let Him? Come, Mr.
Bruder, if you have any real gratitude for the little I have done to
show my interest in you and yours, grant me my request."
"Do you really mean him?" he gasped. "Do you really vant to be drunken
old Berthold Bruder's friend?"
"God is my witness, I do," said Dennis, still holding out his hand.
The poor fellow drew a few short, heavy breaths, and then grasped
Dennis's hand, and clung to it with the force of a drowning man.
"Oh!" said he, after a few moments of deep emotion, "I feel dot I haf
a plank under me now."
"God grant that yon may soon feel that you are on the Rock Christ
Jesus," said Dennis, solemnly.
Fearing the reaction of too great and prolonged emotion, Dennis now
did everything in his power to calm and quiet his new-found friends.
He told them that he boarded at a restaurant, and he asked if he might
take supper with them.
"Him is yours already," said Mr. Bruder.
"No, it isn't," said Dennis--"not after I have given it to you. But
I want to talk to you about several matters, for I think you can be
of great service to me;" and he told them of his experience during the
day; that he had been promoted, and that he wanted Ernst to come and
aid him in his duties. Then he touched on the matter nearest his heart
--his own wish to be an artist, his need of instruction--and told how
by his increase of pay he had now the means of taking lessons, while
still able to support his mother and sisters.
"And now, Mr. Bruder, I feel that I have been very fortunate in making
your acquaintance. You have the touch and tone that I should be
overjoyed to acquire. Will you give me lessons?"
"Yes, morning, noon, and night, vithout von shent of pay."
"That will not do. I'll not take one on those terms."
"I vill do vatever you want me to," said the man, simply, "I vish I
could be led and vatched over as a little child."
Dennis saw his pathetic self-distrust, and it touched him deeply.
"As your friend," he said, with emphasis, "I will not advise you to
do anything that I would not do myself."
So they arranged that Ernst should go to the store in the morning, and
that Dennis should come three nights in the week for lessons.
All made a hearty supper save Mr. Bruder. He had reached that desperate
stage when his diseased stomach craved drink only. But a strong cup
of tea, and some bread that he washed down with it, heartened him a
little, and it was evident that he felt better. The light of a faint
hope was dawning in his face.
Dennis knew something of the physical as well as moral Struggle before
the poor man, and knew that after all it was exceedingly problematical
whether he could be saved. Before he went away he told Mrs. Bruder to
make her husband some very strong coffee in the morning, and to let
him drink it through the day. As for Bruder, he had resolved to die
rather than touch another drop of liquor.
But how many poor victims of appetite have been haunted to the grave
by such resolves--shattered and gone almost as soon as made!
After a long, earnest talk, in which much of the past was revealed on
both sides, Dennis drew a small Testament from is pocket and said:
"Mr. Bruder, I wish to direct your thoughts to a better Friend than
I am or can be. Will you let me read you something about Him?"
"Yes, and dank you. But choose someding strong--suited to me."
Dennis read something strong--the story of the Demoniac of Gadara, and
left him "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind."
"Mr. Bruder, permit me as your _friend_ to say that I think that is the
only safe place for you. Your better self, your true manhood, has been
overpowered by the demon of intemperance. I do not undervalue human will
and purpose, but I think you need a divine, all-powerful Deliverer."
"I know you are right," said Mr. Bruder. "I haf resolved ofer and
ofer again, only to do vorse, and sink deeper at der next temptation,
till at last I gave up trying. Unless I am sustained by some strength
greater dan mine, I haf no hope. I feel dot your human sympathy and
kindness vill be a great help to me, and somehow I dake him as an
earnest dot Gott vil be kind to me too."
"Oh, Mr. Fleet!" he continued, as Dennis rose to go, "how much I owe
to you! I vas in hell on earth ven you came. I vould haf been in hell
beneath before morning. I proposed, from the proceeds of dot picture,
to indulge in von more delirium, and den seek to quench all in der
vaters of der lake."
Dennis shuddered, but said: "And I believe that God purposes that you
should have a good life here, and a happy life in heaven. Co-work with
"If He vill help me, I'll try," said the man, humbly. "Good-night, and
Gott bless you;" and he almost crushed Dennis's hand.
As the young man turned to Mrs. Bruder, he was much struck by her
appearance: she was very pale, and a wonderful light shone from her
eyes. She took his hand in both of hers, and looked at him for a moment
with an expression he could never forget, and then slowly pointed
heavenward without a word.
Dennis hastened away, much overcome by his own feelings. But the silent,
deserted streets seemed luminous, such was the joy of his heart.
MISS LUDOLPH MAKES A DISCOVERY
Several hours were measured off by the clock of a neighboring steeple
before Dennis's excited mind was sufficiently calm to permit sleep,
and even then he often started up from some fantastic dream in which
the Bruders and Mr. and Miss Ludolph acted strange parts. At last he
seemed to hear exquisite music. As the song rose and fell, it thrilled
him with delight. Suddenly it appeared to break into a thousand pieces,
and fall scattering on the ground, like a broken string of pearls, and
this musical trash, as it were, awoke him. The sun was shining brightly
into the room, and all the air seemed vibrating with sweet sounds. He
started up and realized that he had greatly overslept. Much vexed, he
began to dress in haste, when he was startled by a brilliant prelude
on the piano, and a voice of wonderful power and sweetness struck into
an air that he had never heard before. Soon the whole building was
resonant with music, and Dennis stood spellbound till the strange,
rich sounds died away, as before, in a few instrumental notes that had
seemed in his dream like the song breaking into glittering fragments.
"It must be Miss Ludolph," thought Dennis. "And can she sing like that?
What an angel true faith would make of her! Oh, how could I oversleep
so!" And he dressed in breathless haste. In going down to the second
floor, he found a piano open and new music upon it, which Miss Ludolph
had evidently been trying; but she was not there. Yet a peculiar
delicate perfume which the young lady always used pervaded the place,
even as her song had seemed to pulsate through the air after it had
ceased. She could not be far off. Stepping to a picture show-room over
the front door, Dennis found her sitting quietly before a large
painting, sketching one of the figures in it.
"I learned from my father that you were a very early riser," she said,
looking up for a moment, and then resuming her work. "I fear there is
some mistake about it. If we are ever to get through rearranging the
store you will have to curtail your morning naps."
"I most sincerely beg your pardon. I never overslept so before. But
I was out late last night, and passed through a most painful scene,
that so disturbed me that I could not sleep till nearly morning, and
I find to my great vexation that I have overslept. I promise you it
shall not happen again."
"I am not sure of that, if you are out late in Chicago, and passing
through painful scenes. I should say that this city was a peculiarly
bad place for a young man to be out late in."
"It was an experience wholly unexpected to me, and I hope it may never
occur again. It was a scene of trouble that I had no hand in making,
but which even humanity would not permit me to leave at once."
"Not a scene of measles or smallpox, I hope. I am told that your mission
people are indulging in these things most of the time. You have not
been exposed to any contagious disease?"
"I assure you I have not."
"Very well; be ready to assist me to-morrow morning, for we have no
slight task before us, and I wish to complete it as soon as possible.
I shall be here at half-past six, and do not promise to sing you awake
every morning. Were you not a little startled to hear such unwonted
sounds echoing through the prosaic old store?"
"I was indeed. At first I could not believe that it was a human voice."
"That is rather an equivocal compliment."
"I did not mean to speak in compliment at all, but to say in all
sincerity that I have seldom heard such heavenly music."
"Perhaps you have never heard very much of any kind, or else your
imagination overshadows your other faculties. In fact I think it does,
for did you not at first regard me as a painted lady who had stepped
from the canvas to the floor?"
"I confess that I was greatly confused and startled."
"In what respect did you see such a close resemblance?"
"Are you not able to tell?" asked she.
"Yes," said Dennis, with heightened color, "but I do not like to say."
"But I wish you to say," said she, with a slightly imperious tone.
"Well, then, since you wish me to speak frankly, it was your expression.
As you stood by the picture you unconsciously assumed the look and
manner of the painted girl. And all the evening and morning I had been
troubling over the picture and wondering how an artist could paint so
lovely a face, and make it express only scorn and pride. It seemed to
me that such a face ought to have been put to nobler uses."
Miss Ludolph bit her lip and looked a little annoyed, but turning to
Dennis she said, with some curiosity: "You are not a bit like the man
who preceded you. How did you come to take his place?"
"I am poor, and will gratefully do any honest work rather than beg or
"I wish all the poor were of the same mind, but, from the way they
drag on us who have something to give, I think the rule is usually the
other way. Very well, that will answer; since you have asked papa to
let you continue to do Pat's duties, you had better be about them,
though it is not so late as you think;" and she turned to her sketching
in such a way as to quietly dismiss him.
She evidently regarded him with some interest and curiosity, as a
unique specimen of the genus homo, and, looking upon him as a humble
dependant, was inclined to speak to him freely and draw him out for
On going downstairs he saw that Mr. Ludolph was writing in his office.
He was an early riser, and sometimes, entering the side door by a pass
key before the store was opened, would secure an extra hour for
business. He shook his head at Dennis, but said nothing.
By movements wonderfully quick and dexterous Dennis went through his
wonted tasks, and at eight o'clock, the usual hour, the store was ready
Mr. Ludolph often caught glimpses of him as he darted to and fro, his
cheeks glowing, and every act suggesting superabundant life.
He sighed and said: "After all, that young fellow is to be envied. He
is getting more out of existence than most of us. He enjoys everything,
and does even hard work with a zest that makes it play. There will be
no keeping him down, for he seems possessed by the concentrated vim
of this driving Yankee nation. Then he has a world of delusions besides
that seem grand realities. Well, it is a sad thing to grow old and
Indeed it is, in Mr. Ludolph's style.
When Dennis opened the front door, there was Ernst cowering in the
March winds, and fairly trembling in the flutter of his hopes and
fears. Dennis gave him a hearty grasp of the hand and drew him in,
saying, "Don't be afraid; I'll take care of you."
The boy's heart clung to him as the vine tendril clasps the oak, and,
upheld by Dennis's strength, he entered what was to him wonderland
Mr. Ludolph looked him over as he and his daughter passed out on their
return to breakfast, and said, "He will answer if he is strong enough."
He saw nothing in that child's face to fear.
Dennis assured him with a significant glance, which Mr. Ludolph
understood as referring to better fare, that "he would grow strong
Miss Ludolph was at once interested in the boy's pale face and large,
spiritual eyes; and she resolved to sketch them before good living had
destroyed the artistic effect.
Under kindly instruction, the boy took readily to his duties, and
promised soon to become very helpful. At noon Dennis took him out to
lunch, and the poor, half-starved lad feasted as he had not for many
a long day.
The afternoon mail brought Dennis his mother's letter, and he wondered
that her prediction should be fulfilled even before it reached him,
and thus again his faith was strengthened. He smiled and said to
himself, "Mother lives so near the heavenly land that she seems to get
the news thence before any one else."
During the day a lady who was talking to Mr. Ludolph turned and said
to Dennis: "How prettily you have arranged this table! Let me see; I
think I will take that little group of bronzes. They make a very nice
Dennis, with his heart swelling that he had arrived at the dignity of
salesman, with much politeness, which evidently pleased the lady,
assured her that they would be sent promptly to her address.
Mr. Ludolph looked on as if all was a matter of course while she was
present, but afterward said: "You are on the right track, Fleet. You
now see the practical result of a little thought and grace in
arrangement. In matters of art, people will pay almost as much for
these as for the things themselves. The lady would not have bought
those bronzes under Berder's system. When things are grouped rightly,
people see just what they want, and buy the _effect_ as well as the
articles;" and with this judicious praise Mr. Ludolph passed on, better
pleased with himself even than with Dennis.
But, as old Bill Cronk had intimated, such a peck of oats was almost
too much for Dennis, and he felt that he was in danger of becoming too
After closing the store, he wrote a brief but graphic letter to his
mother, describing his promotion, and expressing much sympathy for
poor Berder. Regarding himself as on the crest of prosperity's wave,
he felt a strong commiseration for every degree and condition of
troubled humanity, and even could sigh over unlucky Berder's deserved
About eight o'clock he started to see his new friends in De Koven
Street, and take his lesson in drawing. They welcomed him warmly, for
they evidently looked upon him as the one who might save them from the
engulfing waves of misfortune and evil.
The children were very different from the clamorous little wolves of
the night before. No longer hungry, they were happy in the corner,
with some rude playthings, talking and cooing together like a flock
of young birds. Ernst was washing the tea-things, while his mother
cared for the baby, recalling to Dennis, with a rush of tender memories,
his mother and his boyhood tasks. Mr. Bruder still sat in the dusky
corner. The day had been a hard one for him. Having nothing to do in
the present, he had lived the miserable past over and over again. At
times his strength almost gave way, but his wife would say, "Be patient!
your friend Mr. Fleet will be in soon."
From a few hints of what had passed, Dennis saw the trouble at once.
Mr. Bruder must have occupation. After a few kindly generalities, they
two got together, as congenial spirits, before the rescued picture;
and soon both were absorbed in the mysteries of the divine art.
As the wife looked at the kindling, interested face of her husband,
she murmured to herself over and over again, like the sweet refrain
of a song, "His artist-soul haf come back; it truly haf."
The lesson that night could be no more than a talk on general principles
and rules. But Mr. Bruder soon found that he had an apt scholar, and
Dennis's enthusiasm kindled his own flagging zeal, and the artist-soul
awakening within him, as his wife believed, longed to express itself
as of old in glowing colors.
Moreover, his ambition was renewed in this promising pupil. Naturally
generous, and understanding his noble profession, he felt his poor
benumbed heart stir and glow at the thought of aiding this eager
aspirant to become what he had hoped to be. He might live again in the
richer and better-guided genius of his scholar.
"I will send you by Ernst in the morning some sketching paper,
materials, and canvas, and you can prepare some studies for me. I will
let him bring some drawings and colorings that I have made of late in
odd moments, and you can see about how advanced I am, and what faults
I have fallen into while groping my own way. And I am going to send
you some canvas, also, for I am quite sure that if you paint a picture
Mr. Ludolph will buy it."
The man's face brightened visibly at this.
"Will you let your friend make a suggestion?" continued Dennis.
"You can command me," said Mr. Bruder, with emphasis.
"No; friends never do that; but I would like to suggest that at first
you take some simple subject, that you can soon finish, and leave
efforts that require more time for the future. That picture there shows
what you can do, and you need to work now more from the commercial
standpoint than the artist's."
After a moment's thought, the man said, "You are right. As I look
around dis room, and see our needs, I see dat you are right. Do' I
meant to attempt someding difficult, to show Mr. Ludolph vat I could
"That will all come in good time; and now, my friend, good-night."
The next day was far more tolerable for poor Bruder, because he was
occupied, and he found it much easier to resist the clamors of appetite.
Dennis's sketches interested him greatly, for, though they showed the
natural defects of one who had received little instruction, both power
and originality were manifest in their execution.
"He, too, can be an artist, if he vill," was his emphatic comment,
after looking them over.
He prepared one study, to be continued under his own eye, and another
for Dennis to work at alone. Afterward he sat down to something for
himself. He thought a few moments, and then outlined rapidly as his
subject the figure of a man dashing a wineglass to the ground.
As he worked, his wife smiled encouragement to him as of old, and often
looked upward in thankfulness to Heaven.
WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH HIM?
The sun was just tingeing the eastern horizon with light when Dennis
sprang from his bed on the following morning. He vowed that Miss Ludolph
should never have cause to complain of him again; for, great as was
the luxury of being awakened by such exquisite music, it was one that
he could not afford.
It must be confessed that he gave a little more care than usual that
morning to his toilet; but his resources were very limited. Still, as
nature had done so much for him, he could not complain. By half-past
six his duties in the store were accomplished, and brushed and furbished
up as far as possible, he stood outside the door awaiting his fair
task-mistress. Sometimes he wondered at the strange fascination she
exercised over him, but generally ended by ascribing it to her beauty
and love of art.
A little after the time appointed she appeared with her father, and
seemed pleased at Dennis's readiness for work.
"I shall not have to sing you awake this morning," she said, "and I
am glad, for I am in a mood for business."
She was attired in a close-fitting walking-dress that set off her
graceful person finely. It was evident that her energetic nature would
permit no statuesque repose while Dennis worked, but that she had come
prepared for active measures.
She had inherited a good constitution, which, under her father's
direction, had been strengthened and confirmed by due regard to hygienic
rules. Therefore she had reached the stage of early womanhood abounding
in vitality and capable of great endurance. Active, graceful motion
was as natural to her as it is for a swallow to be on the wing. The
moment she dropped her book, palette, or pencil, she was on her feet,
her healthful nature seeming like a mountain brook, that, checked for
a time in its flow, soon overleaps its bounds and speeds on more swiftly
than ever. But the strange part of this superabundant activity was,
that she never seemed to do anything in an abrupt way, as from mere
impulse. Every act glided into another smoothly and gracefully. Her
lithe, willowy figure, neither slight nor stout, was peculiarly adapted
to her style of movement. She delighted in the game of billiards, for
the quick movements and varied attitudes permitted, and the precision
required, were all suited to her taste; and she had gained such
marvellous skill that even her father, with his practiced hand, was
scarcely her match.
As she tripped lightly up the long winding stairs to the show-room
over the front door where their labors were to begin, she appeared to
Dennis the very embodiment of grace and beauty. And yet she seemed so
cold and self-centred, so devoid of warm human interest in the great
world of love, joy, and suffering, that she repelled while she
"If the blood should come into the cheeks of one of her father's
statues, and the white marble eyes turn to violet blue, and the snowy
hair to wavy gold, and it should spring from its pedestal into just
such life, it would be more like her than any woman I ever saw," thought
Dennis, as he stood for a moment or two waiting to do her bidding.
Her plans had been thoroughly matured, and she acted with decision.
Pointing to the side opposite the door--the side which would naturally
strike the eye of the visitor first--she said, "I wish all the pictures
taken down from that wall and placed around the room so that I can see
She began as an absolute dictator, intending to give no hint of her
plans and purposes except as conveyed by clear, terse orders. But these
had so intelligent and appreciative an interpreter in Dennis, that
gradually her attention was drawn to him as well as to his work.
He had his step-ladder ready, and with a celerity decidedly pleasing,
soon placed the pictures safely on the floor, so that she could still
see them and judge of their character. Though his dexterous manner and
careful handling of the pictures were gratifying, it must be confessed
that his supple form, the graceful and varied attitudes he unconsciously
assumed in his work, pleased her more, and she secretly began to study
him as an artistic subject, as he had studied her.
In her complacency she said: "So far, very well, Mr. Fleet. I
congratulate myself that I have you to assist me, instead of that
awkward fraud, Mr. Berder."
"And I assure you, Miss Ludolph, that I have longed intensely for this
privilege ever since I knew your purpose."
"You may have cause to repent, like many another whose wishes have
been gratified; for your privilege will involve a great deal of hard
"The more the better," said Dennis, warmly.
"How so? I should think you had more to do now than you would care
"Work is no burden to one of my years and strength, provided it is
suited to one's tastes. Moreover, I confess that I hope to derive great
advantages from this labor."
"In what way?" she asked, with a slight frown, imagining that he
thought of extra pay.
"Because unconsciously you will give me instruction, and I hope that
you are not unwilling that I should gain such hints and suggestions
as I can from the display of your taste that I must witness."
"Not at all," said she, laughing. "I see that you are ambitious to
learn your business and rise in the store."
"I am ambitious to gain a knowledge of one of the noblest callings."
"What is that?"
"What!" said she, with a half-scornful smile; "are you a disciple of
"Yes; why not?"
"Well, I do not wish to hurt your feelings, but, to tell you the honest
truth, it seems but the other day that you were Pat Murphy."
"But am I a Pat Murphy?" he asked, with gentle dignity.
"No, Mr. Fleet; I will do you the justice to say that I think you very
much above your station."
"I am sufficiently a democrat, Miss Ludolph, to believe that a man can
be a man in any honest work."
"And I, Mr. Fleet, am not in the least degree a democrat."
Which fact she proceeded to prove by ordering him about for the next
hour like the most absolute little despot that ever queened it over
a servile province in the dark ages. Bat it was rather difficult to
keep up this style of dictatorship with Dennis. He seemed so intelligent
and polite that she often had it to her tongue to ask his opinion on
certain points. Toward the last she did so, and the opinion he gave,
she admitted to herself, was judicious; but for a purpose of her own
she disregarded it, and took a different way.
Dennis at once saw through her plan of arrangement. In the centre of
that side of the room which he had cleared, she caused him to hang one
of the largest and finest pictures, which, under Mr. Schwartz's
management, had been placed in a corner. Around the central painting
all the others were to be grouped, according to color, subject, and
merit. At the same time each wall was to have a character of its own.
Such a task as this would require no little thought, study, and
comparison; and Miss Ludolph was one to see delicate points of
difference which most observers would not notice. It was her purpose
to make the room bloom out naturally like a great flower. This careful
selection of pictures was necessarily slow, and Dennis rejoiced that
their united work would not soon be over.
To her surprise she often saw his eyes instinctively turning to the
same picture that she was about to select, and perceived that he had
divined her plan without a word of explanation, and that his taste was
constantly according with hers in producing the desired effects. Though
all this filled her with astonishment, she revealed no sign of it to
him. At eight she said: "That will do for to-day. We have made a good
beginning--better indeed than I had hoped. But how is it, Mr. Fleet,
since you are such an uncompromising democrat, that you permit a young
lady to order you about in this style?"
Dennis smiled and said: "It seems perfectly natural for you to speak
in this way, and it does not appear offensive as it might in another.
Moreover, I have voluntarily taken this position and am in honor bound
to accept all it involves."
"But which was the controlling motive of your mind?"
"Well, a few seem born to command, and it is a pleasure to obey," said
Dennis, paying a strong but honest compliment to the natural little
"Indeed, Mr. Fleet, do church members flatter?" said she, secretly
"I did not mean to flatter," said he, flushing. "They who have power
should use it like the All-powerful--gently, considerately."
It was her turn to flush now, and she said, "Oh, I perceive, the
compliment was the sugar-coating of the little homily to follow."
"I have no such diplomacy as you credit me with," said Dennis, looking
straight into her eyes with honest frankness. "I merely spoke my passing
"But he has fine eyes," said she to herself, and then she said to him:
"Very well, I certainly will give you credit for being superior to
your position. Be ready again to-morrow at the same hour;" and with
a smile somewhat kindly she vanished.
Somehow she seemed to take the light out of the room with her. The
pictures suddenly looked tame and ordinary, and everything commonplace.
Here was an effect not exactly artistic, which he could not understand.
He sighed, he scarcely knew why.
But the day's duties came with a rush, and soon he was utterly absorbed
That evening Dennis was much cheered by Mr. Bruder's comments on his
"Considering de advantages you haf had, an de little time you can give,
dey are very goot. You haf fallen into de natural faults of dose who
work alone, but we can soon cure dese. Now here is some vork dat I
vant you to do under my eye, and dat study on outlining you can take
home. Moreover, I can give you some lessons in outlining from my own
picture;" and Mr. Bruder showed him what he had done.
Dennis saw in the clear, vigorous profile the artist's thought, and
congratulated himself that his teacher was a master in his profession.
For two hours they worked and talked, and Dennis felt that every such
lesson would be a long step forward.
Poor Bruder looked more and more like himself every day, but God only
knew how he had to struggle.
"I don't know how him vill end," he said. "I pray nearly every minute,
but sometimes I feel dat I must drink even do' I die dat moment."
It was disease as well as appetite that he was fighting, for appetite
indulged beyond a certain point becomes disease.
His wife's face was different also--the sharp look of misery fading
out of it. Dennis noticed the changes, and thought to himself, while
walking home: "After all, the highest art is to bring out on the living
face all we can of God's lost image. How beautiful the changes in these
two poor people's faces! and the best part of it is, that they are the
reflex of changes going on in the soul, the imperishable part."
Then, in quick and natural transition, his mind reverted to Christine
Ludolph; and the thought of her face, which God had fashioned so fair,
but which was already sadly marred by sin, becoming fixed and rigid
in pride and selfishness, was as painful as if, according to an old
legend, her lithe, active form should gradually turn to stone. But if
the reverse could ever be true--if the beautifying Christian graces
could dwell within her soul and light up her face--as lamps illumining
some rare and quaint transparency, the resulting loveliness would
realize the artist's fondest ideal.
Musing thus, what wonder that he vowed then and there, under the
starlight, to pray and work for her till the new life should illumine
her heart. Little dreamed Christine, as she slept that night, that the
first link of a chain which might bind her to heaven had been forged.
The dawn was late and lowering on the following morning. Great masses
of clouds swept across the sky, and soon the rain was falling in gusty
torrents. Dennis rose and hastened through his duties as before, and
was ready at the hour appointed, but had little hope of seeing Miss
Ludolph. Still he opened the door and looked up the street. To his
surprise he saw her coming, attended by her father's valet. Only part
of her glowing face was visible, for she was incased from head to foot
in a light and delicate suit of rubber.
Dennis opened the door, and she stepped quickly in, scattering spray
on every side like a sea-nymph. The young man looked at her with
open-eyed admiration and surprise, which both amused and pleased her.
"True enough," she thought, "his face is like a signboard."
She seemed to him, as she threw off her wet coverings, like an exquisite
flower, that, lifted by the breeze after a storm, scatters the
burdensome rain-drops on every side and stands up more beautiful and
blooming than ever.
"You were not expecting me, I imagine," she said.
"Well, I must admit I scarcely did, and yet I could not help looking
"Isn't that a distinction without a difference?" she asked, with a
pleasant smile, for she was gratified at not finding the store closed
"I am very glad you have come," he replied, flushing slightly with
pleasure, "for it would have been a long, dreary morning if you had
Dennis thought he referred to the lack of occupation. He did not know,
nor did she notice, that he meant the lack of herself.
"Well," said she, "I am glad you like the work, for you destined to
have enough of it."
IS HE A GENTLEMAN?
The days and weeks that followed were to Dennis such as only come once
in a lifetime, and not in every lifetime either. A true, pure love was
growing up within his heart--growing as the little child develops in
strength and pleasurable life, and yet unconsciously to itself. It
seemed as if some strong magician's wand had touched the world or him.
Everything was transfigured, and no wonderland was more full of interest
than that in which he existed. His life was a waking dream, in which
nothing was distinct or definite, but all things abounded in hope and
happy suggestion. He compared it afterward to a tropical island of the
Pacific, a blissful fragment of life by itself, utterly distinct from
the hard, struggling years that preceded, and the painful awakening
Even the place of his daily toil was pervaded by a beautiful presence.
For many days he and Christine worked together, and at last her eyes
had rested on, or her fingers had touched, nearly everything in the
store, and therefore all was associated with her. Throughout their
labors his quick sympathy and appreciation made him almost hands and
feet to her, and she regarded him as a miracle of helpfulness--one
of those humble, useful creatures who are born to wait upon and
interpret the wishes of the rich and great. His admiring glances
disturbed her not and raised no suspicion in her mind. She had been
accustomed to such for years, and took them as a matter of course.
She treated the young men whom she met in society with a courtly ease
and freedom, but her smiles and repartee ever seemed like brilliant
moonlight that had no warmth; and, while no restraint appeared, she
still kept all at a distance. There was a marked difference in her
intercourse with Dennis. Regarding him as too humble ever to presume
upon her frankness, she daily spoke more freely, and more truly acted
out herself before him. She was happy and in her element among the
beautiful works of art they were arranging, and in this atmosphere her
womanly nature, chilled and dwarfed though it was, would often manifest
itself in ways sweet and unexpected. Under no other circumstances could
she have appeared so well. She as often spoke to herself in racy comment
on what was before her as to Dennis, and ever and anon would make some
pleasant remark to him, as she might throw a dainty morsel to her
greyhound Wolf, looking wistfully at her while she dined. At the same
time it must be confessed that she had a growing respect for him, as
she daily saw some new proof of his intelligence and taste; but both
education and disposition inclined her instinctively to the old feudal
idea that even genius, if poor, must wait a humble servitor on wealth
and rank, and where a New England girl would have been saying to
herself, "This gifted, educated man is my equal, and, whether I want
to or not, I ought to treat him as such," she was not troubled at all.
To her, he was her father's clerk and man-of-all-work, a most useful,
trusted, and agreeable servant, and she was kind to him as such. Indeed
the little autocrat was kind to every one that pleased her. She was
a benign queen to obedient subjects, but woe to those who were
To Dennis, however, though he realized it not, she was becoming as the
very apple of his eye. He was learning to regard her with a deeper
interest because of the very defects that he plainly recognized. While
on the one hand he had the enthusiastic love caused by his admiration
for her, on the other he felt the tenderer and greater love which was
the result of pity. He tried to account for his feelings toward her
by the usual sophistries of unconscious lovers. It was friendship; it
was artistic interest in her beauty; it was the absorbing, unselfish
regard of a Christian for one providentially commended to him to be
led out of darkness into light. How could he help thinking of one for
whom he prayed night and morning and every hour in the day? It was all
this, but he was soon to learn that it was a great deal more. And so
the days of occupation and companionship passed; the spell worked on
with increasing and bewildering power, and the crisis could not be
delayed much longer.
One morning in the latter part of April she seemed more gracious than
usual. Their labors were drawing to a close, and, as he had proved so
tasteful and efficient in the store, she concluded that he might be
equally useful in other ways and places. She could command him at the
store, but not in respect to a task that she had in view; so she adopted
a little feminine artifice as old as the time when Eve handed Adam the
apple, and she looked at him in such a way that he could not refuse.
Blind, honest Dennis, it is needless to say, saw nothing of this little
strategy of which he was destined to be the happy, willing victim,
and his love expanded and bloomed under the genial light of her presence
and kindness, like the flowers of the convolvulus in a bright dawn of
June. She brought her general graciousness to a definite and blissful
climax by saying, when about to go home, "Well, Mr. Fleet, you have
done better than usual to-day, and I certainly must give you credit
for possessing more taste than any young man of my acquaintance."
Dennis's heart gave as great a bound as if the laurel crown of all the
Olympic games had been placed upon his brow.
"I am now going to ask a favor," she continued.
"You may command me, Miss Ludolph," interrupted Dennis.
"No, not in this case," she replied. "Whatever you do will be regarded
as a personal favor to me. At the same time it will afford you scope
for such display of your taste as will secure many compliments."
"If I am able to satisfy _you_ I shall be more than compensated," said
Dennis with a bow.
She smiled and thought to herself, "That isn't bad for a porter and
man-of-all-work," and explained as follows:
"Some young ladies and gentlemen have decided upon giving an
entertainment, consisting of music, tableaux, and statuary. Now, in
regard to the two latter parts, we need above all things some person
of taste like yourself, whose critical eye and dexterous hand will
insure everything to be just right. You will be a sort of general stage
manager and superintendent, you know. I feel sure you will be all the
more willing to enter upon this work when you know that the proceeds
are to go toward the Church of the Holy Virgin. This is going to be
a very select affair, and the tickets are five dollars each."
"Is it a Protestant church?" asked Dennis, in some trepidation.
"Oh, certainly," she answered, with a peculiar smile, "an Episcopal
"It seems a strange name for a Protestant church," said Dennis. "It
is enough for me that you wish it; at the same time it certainly is
a pleasure to contribute what little I can to aid any Christian
"Come, Mr. Fleet, you are narrow," she said, with a controversial
twinkle in her eye. "Why not toward a Catholic church?"
"I fear that all people with decided religious opinions are sometimes
regarded as narrow," he answered, with a smile.
"That is an inadequate answer to my question," she said; "but I will
not find fault since you have so good-naturedly acceded to my request.
Come to No. -- Wabash Avenue at three this afternoon. Papa gives you
leave of absence."
She vanished, and figuratively the sun went down to Dennis, and he was
in twilight till he should see her again. He looked forward to the
afternoon with almost feverish eagerness, for several reasons. It would
be his first introduction to "good society," for as such the
unsophisticated youth regarded the prospect. He had the natural longing
of a young, healthful nature for the companionship of those of his own
age and culture, and his life in the great city had often been very
lonely. He expected, as a matter of course, to be treated as an equal
at the artistic entertainment in which he was to participate. In his
business relations at the store he had taken a subordinate position
and made up his mind to the logical consequences. But now that he was
invited to a private house, and would appear there possessing all the
qualities of a gentleman, he surely would be treated as one. "Is not
this Chicago, whose citizens were nearly all poor a few years ago?"
he thought; "and surely, if what Miss Ludolph says is true, I have
advantages in my taste over most poor young men." Moreover, it was his
ideal of an entertainment, where art and music should take the place
of the coarser pleasures of eating, drinking, and dancing. Chief of
all, Christine would be there, and even he in his blindness became a
little uneasy and self-conscious as he realized how this thought towered
above the others.
She had given him a list of the things he was to bring with him in the
afternoon, and he occupied every spare moment in getting them ready.
At a quarter past two he summoned the carman of the store, and they
loaded up the miscellaneous cargo needed for the coming mysteries, and
by three all were before the large elegant mansion to which he had
been directed. Dennis rang the bell and was shown by a servant into
the front parlor, where he found Miss Ludolph, Miss Brown, a tall,
haughty brunette, and the young lady of the house, Miss Winthrop, a
bright, sunny-faced blonde, and two or three other young ladies of no
special coloring or character, being indebted mainly to their toilets
for their attractions. Dennis bowed to Miss Ludolph, and then turned
toward the other ladies, expecting as a matter of course to be
introduced. No introduction came, but his expectant manner was so
obvious that Miss Ludolph colored and looked annoyed, and the other
young ladies tittered outright.
Advancing a step or two she said, coldly, "Mr. Fleet, you may help
Mapes carry the things into the back parlor, and then we will direct
you as to the arrangement."
Dennis crimsoned painfully. At first he was too confused to think, and
merely obeyed mechanically. Then came the impulse to say boldly that
this kind of thing might answer at the store, but not here, and he
nearly carried it out; but soon followed the sober second thought,
that such action would bring a blight over all his prospects, and
involve the loss of his position at the store. Such giving way to
passion would injure only himself. They would laugh, and merely suffer
a momentary annoyance; to him and his the result would be most
disastrous. Why should he let those who cared not a jot for him cause
such sad injury?
By the time he had carried his first armful into the back parlor, he
had resolved for his mother and sisters' sakes that he would go through
the following scenes as well as he could, and then turn his back on
society till he could enter it a recognized gentleman; and with
compressed lips and flashing eye he mentally vowed that that day should
As he was unpacking his materials he could not help hearing the
conversation in the front parlor.
"Did you ever see such presumption?" exclaimed Miss Brown. "He evidently
expected to be introduced, and that we should rise and courtesy
"He must have seen better days, for he certainly appeared like a
gentleman," said Miss Winthrop.
"I should hardly give that title to a man who swept a store out every
morning" replied Miss Brown.
"No, indeed!" chorused the three colorless young ladies.
"I know nothing about this young man," said Miss Winthrop, ruffling
her plumage somewhat for an argument, of which she was fond; "but, as
a case in hand, suppose a highly educated and refined man for some
reason swept a store out every morning, what would you call him?" and
she looked around as if she had given a poser.
The colorless young ladies looked blank--their natural expression.
"Nonsense!" said the positive Miss Brown; "such men don't sweep stores.
He may have passed current in some country village, but that is not
"But the case is certainly supposable," retorted Miss Winthrop, more
intent upon her argument than upon Dennis. "Come, what does the Countess
say?" she asked, turning to Christine; for that was the familiar name
by which she went among her young companions.
"The case is not supposable, but actual," she answered, so distinctly
that it seemed that she meant Dennis to hear. "As far as I have any
means of judging, he is a refined, educated man, and I have learned
from papa that his motive in sweeping the store is the support of his
mother and sisters--certainly a very worthy one. To your question,
Susie, I answer unhesitatingly that in accordance with your American
principles and professions he is a gentleman, and you ought to treat
him as such. But you Americans are sometimes wonderfully inconsistent,
and there is often a marvellously wide margin between your boasted
equality and the reality. Now in Europe these questions have been
settled for ages, and birth and rank define a person's position
"I do not believe in equality," said Miss Brown, with a toss of her
head. (Her father was a mighty brewer, but he and hers were in character
and antecedents something like the froth on their own beer.)
Miss Winthrop was a little embarrassed at finding her supposed case
a real one, for it might involve some practical action on her part.
Many an ardent advocate of the people in theory gives them practically
the cold shoulder, and is content to stay on the summit of Mt. Olympus.
She was a girl of good impulses and strong convictions of abstract
right, but rarely had either the courage or the opportunity to carry
them out. She was of the old Boston family of Winthrops, and therefore
could meet Miss Ludolph on her own ground in the way of pedigree.
But, however Dennis fared, she felt that she must look after her
argument, and, having conquered theoretically as far as America was
concerned, determined to carry war into Europe, so she said: "Are you
not mistaken in saying that birth and rank only settle position abroad?
Some of the most honored names there are or were untitled."
"Oh, certainly, but they were persons of great genius, and _genius_ is
the highest patent of nobility. But I leave you republicans to settle
this question to suit yourselves. I am going to look after the
preparations for this evening, as I have set my heart on a success
that shall ring through the city."
But they all flocked after her into the back parlor, now doubly
interesting as it contained an object of curiosity in Dennis Fleet--a
veritable gentleman who swept a store.
CHRISTINE'S IDEA OF CHRISTIANS
The large apartment where the amateur performers expected to win their
laurels was now filled with all the paraphernalia needed to produce
musical, artistic, and scenic effects. Much had been gathered before
Dennis's arrival, and his cart-load added all that was necessary.
Everything seemed in inextricable confusion.
"The idea of having anything here to-night!" exclaimed Miss Winthrop.
"It will take us a week to get things arranged."
"The thing is hopeless," said the blank young ladies.
Even Christine looked somewhat dismayed, but she said, "Remember we
have till half-past eight."
"I will call two or three of the servants," said Miss Brown.
"I beg of you do not, at least not yet," exclaimed Christine. "What
will their clumsy hands do in work like this, but mar everything. I
have great faith in Mr. Fleet's abilities," she continued, turning
toward Dennis, with an enchanting smile, and resuming the tactics of
the morning. Though the smile went to Dennis's heart like a fiery
arrow, his pride, thoroughly aroused, made him cold and self-possessed.
He naturally assumed the manner possible only to the true gentleman
who, though wronged, chooses not to show his feelings save by a grave,
quiet dignity. In view of their action and manner, he consciously felt
himself their superior; and this impression, like an atmosphere, was
felt by them also. As they looked upon his tall, erect form, manly
bearing, and large dark eyes, in which still lurked the fire of an
honest indignation, they felt the impossibility of ordering him about
like Mapes the carman. They regarded him for a moment in awkward
silence, not knowing what to do or say. Even haughty Christine was
embarrassed, for the stronger spirit was present and thoroughly aroused,
and it overpowered the weaker natures. Christine had never seen Dennis
look like that, and did not know that he could. He was so different
from the eager, humble servitor that heretofore had interpreted her
very wishes, even before they were spoken! Moreover, the success of
their entertainment now depended upon him, and she felt that he was
in a mood requiring delicate treatment, and that she could not order
him around in the role to which she had assigned him. And yet if she
had known him, she might, for he had made up his mind to go through
even the most menial service with proud humility, and then be careful
not to be so caught again; and, when Dennis had resolved upon a thing,
that settled the question so far as he was concerned. Seeing Christine's
hesitation and embarrassment, he stepped forward and said: "Miss
Ludolph, if you will indicate _your_ wishes I will carry them out as
rapidly as possible. I can soon bring order out of this confusion; and
you must have some plan of arrangement."
She gave him a quick, grateful glance, that thawed more of his ice
than he cared to have melt so quickly.
"Of course we have," said she. "This is but the nervous hesitation
before the shock of a battle that has all been planned on paper. Here
is our programme."
"All battles do not go forward in the field as planned on paper, if
my feeble memory serves me," said Miss Winthrop, maliciously.
"I grant you that," said Christine, quietly, "and you need not tax
your memory so greatly to prove it."
She was now very kind and gracious to Dennis, believing that to be the
best policy. It usually is, but she received no special proof of it
from him: he listened alike to request, suggestion, and compliment.
There was nothing sullen or morose in his appearance, nothing resentful
or rude. With the utmost respect he heard all she said, and carried
out her wishes with that deft, graceful promptness in which he had few
equals. At the same time his manner was that of one who thoroughly
respected himself--that of a refined and cultivated person, who, having
become committed to a disagreeable part, performed it with only the
protest of dignified silence.
As his first step, he cleared a space for action, and arranged
everything to be in view when needed. The rapidity with which order
emerged from confusion was marvellous to the young ladies.
Then he took their programme, studied it a few moments, and compared
it with the pictures of the scenes they wished to imitate. He then
arranged for these one after another, placing everything needed within
reach, and where it could readily be seen, making the combinations
beforehand as far as possible. As he worked so intelligently and
skilfully, requiring so few explanations, the young ladies exchanged
significant glances, and strolled into the front parlor. They must
express an opinion.
"I declare, Christine," said Miss Winthrop, "it is a shame that you
did not introduce him, for he is a gentleman. He works like a captive
"How romantic!" gushed the colorless young ladies.
"Nonsense!" said Miss Brown; "I hate to see any one in his position
putting on such airs."
As soon as she had seen Dennis fairly at work just like her mother's
servants, or her father's men, she felt that he ought to be treated
as such--riches being Miss Brown's patent of nobility; and she resolved
if possible to lower his ridiculous pride, as she regarded it. Miss
Brown was a very handsome, stylish girl of a certain type, but she no
more understood Dennis's feelings than she did Sanscrit.
Christine said nothing, but admitted to herself, with a secret wonder,
that Dennis awakened in her a respect, a sort of fear, that no other
man had inspired, save her father. There was something in his manner,
though altogether respectful, that made her feel that he was not to
be trifled with. This impression was decidedly heightened when, a few
moments later, Miss Brown, pursuant of her resolution to lower Dennis's
pride, ordered him in an offensive manner to do something for her that
had no connection with the entertainment. At first he acted as if he
had not heard her, but his rising color showed that he had. In spite
of warning glances from Christine and Miss Winthrop, she repeated her
request in a loud, imperious tone.
Dennis drew himself up to his full height, and, turning his dark eyes
full upon her, said, firmly, "I am ever ready to _offer_ any service
that a gentleman can to a lady, but surely I am not your footman."
"Your pride is ridiculous, sir. You are here to help, and will be paid
for it. This is my house, and I expect persons of your position, while
in it, to do as they are bidden."
"Since such are the rules and principles of your house, permit me at
once to leave you in full possession;" and he was about to retire with
a manner as cold as Mr. Ludolph himself could have assumed, and as
haughty, when a light hand fell upon his arm. Looking down he met the
deep blue eyes of Christine Ludolph lifted pleadingly to his.
"Mr. Fleet, you need not do what is asked. It is not right to require
it. In fact we all owe you an apology." Then, in a low, quick tone,
she added, "Will you not stay as a favor to me?"
She felt his arm tremble under her hand, there was a moment's
hesitation, then he replied, in the same manner, "Miss Ludolph, _you_
can command me on _this_ occasion" (there was no promise for the
future); and then he turned to his work as if resolved to see and know
nothing else till the ordeal ended.
In spite of herself Christine blushed, but taking Miss Brown by the arm
she led her aside and gave her a vigorous lecture.
"Are you sane?" she said. "Do you not remember that nearly a thousand
dollars' worth of tickets are sold, and that the people will be here
by half-past eight, and at nine we must appear? Even after what he has
done, if you should drive him away the thing would be a failure, and
we should be the ridiculous town-talk for a year."
"But I hate--"
"No matter what you hate. Treat him as you please tomorrow. We need
him now;" and so the petted, wilful girl, spoiled by money and flattery,
was kept under restraint.
A great deal of preparation was required for the last two pieces on
the programme, and the young ladies grouped themselves not far off
while Dennis worked. Christine explained from time to time as the
natural leader of the party. Still an awkward silence followed the
scene above described. This restraint could not long endure, and one
of the colorless young ladies asked a question that led to more than
she intended, and indeed, more than she understood.
"Christine, what do you do with yourself Sundays? Your pew is not
occupied once in an age."
"I usually paint most of the day, and ride out with papa in the
afternoon when it is pleasant."
"Why, you are a perfect little heathen!" they all exclaimed in chorus.
"Yes, I suppose I am worse than a pagan," she said, "for I not only
do not believe in your superstitions, but have none of my own."
"What do you believe in, then?" asked Miss Winthrop.
"Art, music, fame, power."
She announced her creed so coolly and decidedly that Dennis lifted a
startled face to hers. She saw his grieved, astonished expression, and
it amused her very much. Henceforth she spoke as much for his benefit
as for theirs.
"If you would be equally honest," she continued, "you would find that
your creeds also are very different from the one in the prayer-book."
"And what would mine be, pray," asked one of the colorless young ladies.
"I will sum it up in one sentence, Miss Jones--'Keep in the fashion.'"
"I think that you are very unjust. I'm sure I go to church regularly,
and attend a great many services in Lent and on Saints' days. I've
been confirmed, and all that."
"Yes, it is the thing to do in your set. Now, here is Miss Winthrop,
a Presbyterian, who manifests quite another religious phase."
"Pray what is mine?" asked that lady, laughing.
"Oh, you want hair-splitting in regard to the high doctrines--clear,
brilliant arguments, cutting like sharp, merciless steel into the
beliefs of other denominations. Then, after your ism has been glorified
for an hour on Sunday morning, and all other isms pierced and lashed,
you descend from your intellectual heights, eat a good dinner, take
a nap, and live like the rest of us till the next Sabbath, when (if
it is a fine day) you climb some other theological peak, far beyond
the limits of perpetual snow, and there take another bird's-eye view
of something that might be found very different if you were nearer to
"And what is my phase?" asked Miss Brown.
"Oh, you are an out-and-out sinner, and do just what you please, in
spite of priest or prayer-book," said Christine, with a laugh in which
all the ladies joined.
"Well," said Miss Brown, "I do not think that I am worse than the rest
"Not in the least," replied Christine. "We all have some form of
religion, or none at all, as it accords with our peculiar tastes."
"And you mean to say that having a religion or not is a mere matter
of taste?" asked Miss Winthrop.
"Yes, I should say it was, and practically that it _is_. You ladies, and
nearly all that I have met, seem to choose a style of religion suited to
your tastes; and the tastes of many incline them to have no religion at
"Why, Miss Ludolph!" exclaimed Miss Winthrop, her cheeks glowing with
honest dissent and zeal for the truth; "our religion is taken from the
Bible. Do you not believe in the Bible?"
"No! not in the sense in which you ask the question; nor you either,
my charming Miss Winthrop."
"Indeed I do, every word of it," said the orthodox young lady, hotly.
"Let me test you. Miss Brown, have you such a book in the house? Oh,
yes, here is an elegantly bound copy, but looking as if never opened.
And now, Miss Winthrop, this city is full of all sorts of horrid people,
living in alleys and tenement houses. They are poor, half-naked, hungry,
and sometimes starving. Many are in prison, and more ought to be; many
are strangers, more utterly alone and lonely in our crowded streets
than on a desert island. They are suffering from varieties of disgusting
disease, and having a hard time generally. How many hungry people have
you fed? How many strangers (I do not mean distinguished ones from
abroad) have you taken in and comforted? How many of the naked have
you clothed? And how long is your list of the sick and imprisoned that
you have visited, my luxurious little lady?"
A real pallor overspread Miss Winthrop's sunny face, for she saw what
was coming, but she answered, honestly, "I have done practically nothing
of all this." Then she added: "Papa and mamma are not willing that I
should visit such places and people. I have asked that I might, but
they always discourage me, and tell of the awful experiences of those
"Then they don't believe the Bible, either," said Christine; "for if
they did they would insist on your doing it; and if you believed you
would do all this in spite of them; for see what is written here; the
very Being that you worship and dedicate your churches to will say,
because of your not doing this, 'Depart from me, ye cursed, into
everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.' And this is
but one of many similar passages. Now all this is a monstrous fable
to me. The idea of any such experiences awaiting my light-hearted
little Sybarite here!"
Miss Winthrop had buried her face in her hands, and was trembling from
head to foot. The words of God never seemed so real and true before
as now when uttered by an unbeliever.
"I don't believe there is any such place or things," said Miss Brown,
"There spake my mature and thoughtful friend who is not to be imposed
upon," said Christine, with a touch of irony in her tone.
Dennis had listened in sad wonder. Such words of cynical unbelief were
in dark, terrible contrast with the fair young face. He saw the mind
and training of her father in all she said, but he bitterly condemned
the worldly, inconsistent life of multitudes in the church who do more
to confirm unbelievers than all their sophistries. But as she went on,
seemingly having the argument all her own way, his whole soul burned
to meet and refute her fatal views. For her own sake and the others'
as well as for the dishonored name of his Lord, he must in some way
turn the tide. Though regarded as a humble servitor, having no right
to take part in the conversation, he determined that his hands must
lift up the standard of truth if no others would or could. To his joy
he found that the programme would soon give him the coveted opportunity.
Christine went on with a voice as smooth and musical as the flow of
a stream over a glacier.
"I have read the Bible several times, and that is more than all of you
can say, I think. It is a wonderful book, and has been the inspiration
of some of our best art. There are parts that I enjoy reading very
much for their sublimity and peculiarity. But who pretends to live as
this old and partially obsolete book teaches? Take my father, for
instance. All the gentlemen in the church that I know of can do, and
are accustomed to do, just what he does, and some I think do much
worse; and yet he is an infidel, as you would term him. And as to the
ladies, not the Bible, but fashion rules them with a rod of iron. I
have cut free from it all, and art shall be my religion and the
inspiration of my life."
As Christine talked on, the twilight deepened, and Dennis worked with
"After all," she continued, "it is only history repeating itself. The
educated mind to-day stands in the same attitude toward Christianity
as that of the cultured mind of Greece and Rome toward the older
mythology in the second century. Then as now the form of religion was
kept up, but belief in its truth was fast dying out. The cities abounded
in gorgeous temples, and were thronged with worshippers, but they
sacrificed at the dictates of fashion, custom, and law, not of faith.
So our cities are adorned with splendid churches, and fashion and the
tastes of the congregation decide as to the form of service. The sects
differ widely with each other, and all differ with the Bible. The
ancients gave no more respect to what was regarded as the will of their
imaginary deities than do modern Christians to the precepts of the
Bible. People went to the ceremonies, got through with them, and then
did what they pleased; and so they do now.
"Take for instance one of your commonest doctrines, that of prayer;
the majority have no practical belief in it. My father has taken me,
and out of curiosity I have attended several prayer meetings. The
merest fraction of the congregation are present at the best of times,
and if the night is stormy the number out is ridiculously small. Yet
all profess to believe that the Lord of heaven and earth will be
present, and that it is His will that they should be. Your Bible teaches
that the Being who controls completely the destiny of every person
will be in the midst of those gathered in His name, to hear and answer
their petitions. If this is true, then no earthly ruler was every so
neglected and insulted, so generally ignored, as this very Deity to
whom you ascribe unlimited power, and from whom you say you receive
life and everything. An eastern despot would take off the heads of
those who treated him in such a style; and a republican politician
would scoff at the idea of giving office to such lukewarm followers.
Why, here in Christian Chicago the will of God is no more heeded by
the majority than that of the Emperor of China, and the Bible might
as well be the Koran. Looking at these facts from my impartial
standpoint, I am driven to one of two alternatives: either you regard
your God as so kind and good, so merciful, that you can trespass on
His forbearance to any extent, and treat Him with a neglect and an
indifference that none would manifest toward the pettiest earthly
potentate, and still all will be well; or else you have no real
practical belief in your religion. Though not very charitably inclined,
I cannot think quite so meanly of human nature as to take the former
view, so I am driven to the latter. For surely no man who wished to
live and prosper, no woman who loved her husband and children, could
so coolly and continually disregard the Deity in whom they profess to
believe, with the old Greek poet, that they 'live, move, and have their
The twilight deepened, and Christine continued, her words, portraying
the decline of faith, according ominously with the increasing gloom.
"Why, in order to see the truth of what I am saying, look at the emblem
of your faith--the Cross. All its historical associations are those
of self-denial, and suffering for others. The Founder of your faith
endured death upon it. He was a great, good man like Socrates, though
no doubt a mistaken enthusiast. But what He meant He said plainly and
clearly, as, for instance, 'Whosoever doth not bear his cross and come
after Me cannot be My disciple.' I admit that in the past He had a
wonderful following. In the ages of martyrdom multitudes left all, and
endured all that He did, for His sake. But so there have been other
great leaders with equally devoted followers. But in this practical
age religious enthusiasm has but little chance. What crosses do the
members of the Church of the Holy Virgin take up? and what are borne
by your great rich church, Miss Winthrop? The shrewd people of this
day manage better, and put their crosses on the top of the church. I
suppose they reason that the stone tower can carry it for the whole
congregation, on the principle of a labor-saving machine. But, honestly,
your modern disciples are no more like their Master than one of the
pale, slim, white-kidded gentlemen who will be here to-night is like
Richard Coeur de Lion as he led a charge against the Moslems. Your
cross is dwindling to a mere pretty ornament--an emblem of a past that
is fast fading from men's memories. It will never have the power to
inspire the heart again, as when the Crusaders--"
At that moment their eyes were blinded by a sudden, dazzling light.
There was a general and startled exclamation, and then, awe-struck and
silent, they gazed as if spellbound upon a luminous cross blazing
EQUAL TO AN EMERGENCY
The fiery cross that so awed Christine and her little group of auditors
was to be the closing scene of the evening entertainment. It was of
metal, and by a skilful adjustment of jets was made to appear as if
all aflame. While the others were intent on Christine's words, and
she in the interest of her theme had quite forgotten him, Dennis made
all his arrangements, and at the critical point narrated in the
preceding chapter he turned on the gas with the most startling effect.
It seemed a living, vivid refutation of Christine's words, and even
she turned pale. After a moment, for the emblem to make its full
impression, Dennis stepped out before them all, his face lighted up
by the luminous cross. They admitted that no crusader could look more
earnest and brave than he.
"Miss Ludolph," he said, in a firm, yet respectful tone, "I should
evermore be unworthy of your respect and confidence--what is more, I
should be false to myself, false to my faith--should I remain silent
in view of what I have been compelled to hear. That sacred emblem has
not spent its meaning, or its power. Millions to-day would die for
the sake of Him who suffered on it. Many even of those weak,
inconsistent ones that you have so justly condemned would part with
life rather than with the faint hope that centres there," pointing to
the radiant symbol.
"You are rude, sir," said Christine, her face pale, but her eyes
flashing in turn.
"No, he is right! he is right!" exclaimed Miss Winthrop, springing up
with tears in her eyes. "Undeserving as I am of the name of Christian,
I would die, I know I would die, before I would give up my poor little
hope--though I confess you make me fear that it is a false one. But
it's the best I have, and I mean it shall be better. I think a good
touch of persecution, that would bring people out, would do the church
more good than anything else.
"Pardon me, Miss Ludolph," continued Dennis; "but I appeal to your
sense of justice. Could I be a true man and be silent, believing what
I do? Could I hear the name of my Best Friend thus spoken of, and say
not one word in His behalf?"
"But I spoke most highly of the Christ of the Bible."
"You spoke of Him as a great, good, but mistaken _man_, an enthusiast.
To me He is the mighty God, my Divine Saviour, to whom I owe infinitely
more than life. You know that I mean no disrespect to you," he added,
with gentle but manly courtesy. "I regret more deeply than words can
express that you honestly think as you do. But if I as honestly believe
the Bible, am I not acting as you said a true follower ought? For I
assure you it is a heavier cross than you can ever know to speak thus
unbidden where I am regarded only as a serving-man. But should I not be
false and cowardly if I held my peace? And if you afterward should know
that I claimed the name of Christian, would you not despise me as you
remembered this scene?"
Christine bit her lip and hesitated, but her sense of justice prevailed,
and she said, "I not only pardon you, but commend your course in view
of your evident sincerity."
Dennis replied by a low bow.
At this moment there was a loud ring at the door.
"There come the gentlemen," exclaimed Miss Brown. "I am so glad! Oh,
dear! what a long, uncomfortable preachment we have had! Now for some
The colorless young ladies had stared first at Christine, and then at
the cross, in blank amazement.
At the word "gentlemen" they were all on the alert and ready for _real_
life; but Miss Winthrop left the room for a short time.
A handsome, lively youth entered, scattering bows and compliments on
every side with the off-hand ease of an accomplished society man. He
paid no heed to Dennis, evidently regarding him as the showman.
"Well, ladies, you have done your part," he said; "your arrangements
"Yes, Mr. Mellen; but where is our tenor?" asked Christine. "We have
only three-quarters of an hour for music rehearsal, before we must
retire to dress for our parts."
"Bad news for you, Miss Ludolph," said Mr. Mellen, coming to her side;
"Archer is sick and can't come."
"Can't come?" they all exclaimed in dismayed chorus.
"What is the matter?" asked Miss Winthrop, anxiously, coming in at
"Matter enough," said Miss Brown, poutingly; "that horrid Archer has
gone and got sick, I do believe he did it on purpose. He did not know
his parts near as well as he ought, and he has taken this way to get
out of it."
"But he promised me he would study them all the morning," said
Christine. "Oh, I am so sorry! What shall we do? Our entertainment
seems fated to be a failure;" and she spoke in a tone of deep
"I assure you I feel the deepest sympathy for you," said Mr. Mellen,
looking tenderly at Christine, "but I did my best. I tried to drag
Archer here out of his sick-bed, and then I ran around among some other
good singers that I know, but none would venture. They said the music
was difficult, and would require much practice, and that now is
"Oh, isn't it too bad?" mourned Miss Winthrop. "The programme is all
printed, and the people will be so disappointed! We can't have that
splendid duet that you and Mr. Archer were to sing, Christine. I have
a score of friends who were coming to hear that alone."
"Oh, as for that matter, half our music is spoiled," said Christine,
dejectedly. "Well, this is the last time I attempt anything of the
kind. How in the world we are going to get out of this scrape I do not
know. The tickets are so high, and so much has been said, that the
people are expecting a great deal, and there is every prospect of a
most lame and impotent conclusion."
A general gloom settled upon the faces of all. At this moment Dennis
stepped forward hesitatingly and said to Christine, "Have you the music
that Mr. Archer was to sing?"
"Certainly! do you suppose it was of the kind that he could
extemporize?" said Miss Brown, pertly.
"Will you let me see it? If you are willing, perhaps I can assist you
in this matter."
All turned toward him with a look of great surprise.
"What do you think of that from the man who sweeps Mr. Ludolph's store?"
asked Miss Brown, in a loud whisper.
"I think the fellow is as presuming as he is ignorant," said Mr. Mellen,
so plainly that all heard him.
"It is not presuming, sir, to offer a kindness where it is needed,"
said Dennis, with dignity, "and my ignorance is not yet proved. The
presumption is all on your part."
Mr. Mellen flushed and was about to answer angrily when Miss Winthrop
said hastily, but in a kindly tone, "But really, Mr. Fleet, much of
our music is new and very difficult."
"But it is written, is it not?" asked Dennis, with a smile.
Christine looked at him in silent wonder. What would he not do next?
But she was sorry that he had spoken, for she foresaw only mortification
"Oh, give him the music by all means," said Miss Brown, expecting to
enjoy his blundering attempts to sing what was far beyond him. "There,
I will play the accompaniment. It's not the tune of Old Hundred that
you are to sing now, young man, remember."
Dennis glanced over the music, and she began to play a loud, difficult
He turned to Miss Ludolph, and said: "I fear you have given me the
wrong music. Miss Brown is playing something not written here."
They exchanged significant glances, and Miss Winthrop said, "Play the
right music, Miss Brown."
She struck into the music that Dennis held, but played it so out of
time that no one could sing it. Dennis laid down his sheets on the
piano and said quietly, though with flushed face: "I did not mean to
be obtrusive. You all seemed greatly disappointed at Mr. Archer's
absence and the results, and I thought that in view of the emergency
it would not be presumption to offer my services. But it seems that
I am mistaken."
"No, it is not presumption," said Miss Winthrop. "It was true kindness
and courtesy, which has been ill requited. But you see, to be frank,
Mr. Fleet, we all fear that you do not realize what you are
"Must I of necessity be an ignoramus because, as Miss Brown says, I
sweep a store?"
"Let me play the accompaniment," said Christine, with the decided
manner that few resisted, and she went correctly through the difficult
and brilliant passage. Dennis followed his part with both eye and ear,
and then said, "Perhaps I had better sing my part alone first, and
then you can correct any mistakes."
There was a flutter of expectation, a wink from Mr. Mellen, and an
audible titter from Miss Brown.
"Certainly" said Miss Ludolph, who thought to herself, "If he will
make a fool of himself, he may"; and she played the brief prelude.
Then prompt at the proper moment, true to time and note, Dennis's rich,
powerful tenor voice startled and then entranced them all. He sung the
entire passage through with only such mistakes as resulted from his
nervousness and embarrassment.
At the close, all exclaimed in admiration save Miss Brown, who bit her
lip in ill-concealed vexation, and said, with a half-sneer, "Really,
Mr. What-is-your-name, you are almost equal to Blind Tom."
"You do Blind Tom great injustice," said Dennis. "I read my music."
"But how did you learn to read music in that style?" asked Christine.
"Of course it took me years to do so. But no one could join our musical
club at college who could not read anything placed before him."
"It must have been small and select, then."
"How often had you sung that piece before?" asked Miss Brown.
"I never saw it before," answered Dennis.
"Why, it is just out," said Christine.
"Well, ladies and gentlemen, our troubles are over at last," said Miss
Winthrop. "Mr. Fleet seems a good genius--equal to any emergency. If
he can sing that difficult passage, he can sing anything else we have.
We had better run over our parts, and then to our toilets."
One of the colorless young ladies played the accompaniments, her music
making a sort of neutral tint, against which their rich and varied
voices came out with better effect. They sung rapidly through the
programme, Dennis sustaining his parts correctly and with taste. He
could read like the page of an open book any music placed before him,
and years of practice enabled him to sing true and with confidence.
As he sung one thing after another with perfect ease, their wonder
grew; and when, in the final duet with Christine, they both came out
strongly, their splendid, thoroughly-trained voices blending in perfect
harmony, they were rewarded with a spontaneous burst of applause, in
which even Miss Brown was compelled to join.
Christine said nothing, but gave Dennis a quick, grateful glance, which
amply repaid him for the martyrdom she had led him into that afternoon.
He acknowledged the plaudits of the others with a slight, cool bow,
but her thanks with a warm flush of pleasure, and then turned to
complete his arrangements as if nothing had happened. There was not
the slightest show of exultation or of a purpose to demand equality,
in view of what had taken place. His old manner returned, and he acted
as if they were all strangers to him. They exchanged significant,
wondering glances, and after a brief consultation retired to the
dining-room, where coffee and sandwiches were waiting. Miss Winthrop
and Christine sincerely hoped that Miss Brown would invite Dennis out,
but she did not, and since it was her house, as she had said, they
could not interfere. Dennis heard the clatter of knives and forks, and
saw that he was again slighted; but he did not care now. Indeed, in
the light of the sacred emblem before which he had stood, he had learned
patience. He remembered how the rich and great of the world had treated
his Master. Then, too, Christine's kind, grateful glance seemed to
fall upon him like a warm ray of sunlight.
When they had finished and were about to dress for their parts, Miss
Brown put her head within the door and said, "You will find some lunch
in the dining-room."
Dennis paid no heed to her, but he heard Miss Winthrop say: "Really,
Miss Brown, that is too bad after what he has done and shown himself
to be. I wonder that he does not leave the house."
"He will not do that until he is no longer needed," said Christine.
"Then he may as soon as he chooses," said Miss Brown. She was a girl
of violent prejudices, and from her very nature would instinctively
dislike such a person as Dennis Fleet.
"Well," said Miss Winthrop, "he is a gentleman, and he gave the
strongest proof of it when he quietly and modestly withdrew after
achieving a success that would have turned any one's head, and that
ought to have secured him full recognition."
"I told you he was a gentleman," said Christine, briefly, "and I
consider myself a judge;" and then their voices passed out of hearing.
Dennis, having arranged everything so that he could place his hands
readily upon it, found that he had half an hour to spare. He said to
himself: "Miss Ludolph is wrong. I shall leave the house for a short
time. I am a most unromantic individual; for, no matter what or how
I feel, I do get hungry. But I am sure Miss Brown's coffee and
sandwiches would choke me. I have already swallowed too much from her
to care for any more, so here's for a restaurant."
Miss Winthrop hastened through her toilet in order that she might come
down and speak to Dennis while he was alone. She wished to thank him
for his course and his vindication of the truth, and to assure him
that she both respected him and would treat him as a true gentleman.
She went into the back parlor, but he was not there; then she passed
to the dining-room, but found only servants clearing away and preparing
for the grand supper of the evening.
In quick alarm she asked, "Where is Mr. Fleet?"
"Is it the man in the back parlor, mum? He's just after goin' out."
"Oh, girls!" exclaimed Miss Winthrop, rushing upstairs, "Mr. Fleet has
And there was general consternation.
The toilets of the young ladies were nearly completed, but, without
waiting to add another touch, all hastened to the place where they had
left Dennis. One of the colorless young ladies appeared upon the scene
with a shawl around her bare shoulders, and a great deal of color on
one cheek, and none on the other as yet; but this slight discrepancy
was unnoted in the dire calamity they feared.
Many were the exclamations and lamentations.
"Why, the people will be here in fifteen minutes," said Miss Winthrop,
in a nervous tremor.
"Did he leave no word?" asked Miss Brown of the servants.
"No word, mum," was the dismal echo.
"What shall we do?" they said, looking at one another with blank faces;
but none could answer.
"I do hate such proud, freakish people. There is no managing or
depending on them," said Miss Brown, spitefully.
Miss Winthrop bit her lips to keep from saying to her hostess what
would be more true than polite. There was a flash of anger in
Christine's dark blue eyes, and she said, coldly: "I imagine that you
have finished the business this time, Miss Brown. But I confess that
I am greatly surprised, for he said I could depend upon him for
"So you can," said Dennis, coming in behind them. "I am sorry you have
had this needless alarm. But the fact is, I am a plain, ordinary mortal,
and live in a very material way."
"There was plenty of lunch in the dining-room," said Miss Brown, tartly.
"You need not have gone out and made all this trouble."
"Pardon me for slighting your hospitality," said Dennis, with slight
emphasis on the word.
Again significant glances were exchanged. Miss Brown darted a black
look at Dennis, and left the room.
"I can assure you, ladies," added he, "that all is ready. I can lay
my hand in a moment on whatever is needed. Therefore you need give
yourselves no further anxiety."
There was a general stampede for the dressing-rooms, but Miss Winthrop
lingered. When Dennis was alone she went up to him and frankly gave
her hand, saying: "Mr. Fleet, I wish to thank you for your course
to-day. Between Miss Ludolph's unwitting sermon and your brave and
unexpected vindication of our faith, I hope to become more deserving
of the name of Christian. You are a gentleman, sir, in the truest and
best sense of the word, and as such it will ever be a pleasure to
welcome you at my father's house;" and she gave him her card.
A flush of grateful surprise and pleasure mantled Dennis's face, but
before he could speak she was gone.
The audience were soon thronging in. By half-past eight the performers
were all in the back parlor, and there was a brilliant army of actors
and actresses in varied and fanciful costume, many coming to the house
dressed for their parts. There were gods and goddesses, shepherds and
shepherdesses, angels, crusaders, who would take leave of languishing
ladies, living statuary, and tableaux of all sorts. Dennis was much
shocked at the manner in which ladies exposed themselves in the name
of art and for the sake of effect. Christine seemed perfectly Greek
and pagan in this respect, yet there was that in her manner that forbade
a wanton glance. But, as he observed the carriage of the men around
him, he was more than satisfied that no plea of art could justify the
"style," and felt assured that every pure-minded woman would take the
same view if she realized the truth. Under the name of fashion and art
much is done in society that would be simply monstrous on ordinary
The music, as far as possible, was in character with the scenes. The
entertainment went forward with great applause. Every one was radiant;
and the subtile, exhilarating spirit of assured success glowed in every
eye, and gave a richer tone and coloring to everything.
Christine appeared in several and varied characters, and Dennis had
eyes only for her. The others he glanced over critically as the artist
in charge, and then dismissed them from his thoughts; but on Christine
his eyes rested in a spell-bound admiration that both amused and pleased
her. She loved power of every kind, and when she read approval in the
trained and critical eye of Dennis Fleet she knew that all the audience
But Dennis had little time for musing, so great was the strain upon
him to prevent confusion. His voice excited great surprise and applause,
many inquiring vainly who he was. When he and Christine sung together
the audience were perfectly carried away, and stormed and applauded
without stint. Indeed, it seemed that they could not be satisfied. The
call was so urgent that several asked Christine to sing again, and she
did so alone. For ten minutes she held the audience perfectly entranced,
and no one more so than Dennis. Usually she was too cold in all that
she did, but now in her excitement she far surpassed herself, and he
acknowledged that he had never heard such music before.
The very soul of song seemed breathed into her, and every nook and
corner of the house appeared to vibrate with melody. Even the servants
in distant rooms said that it seemed that an angel was singing. After
she ceased, the audience sat spellbound for a moment, and then followed
prolonged thunders of applause, the portly brewer, Mr. Brown himself,
leading off again and again.
"Now let the tenor sing alone," he said, for, though a coarse man, he
was hearty and good-natured.
The audience emphatically echoed his wish, but Dennis as decidedly
shook his head.
Then came a cry, "Miss Ludolph and the tenor again"; and the audience
took it up with a clamor that would not be denied.
Christine looked inquiringly at Dennis, and he replied in a low tone,
"You command me this evening."
Again she thanked him with her eyes, and from a music stand near
chose a magnificent duet from Mendelssohn, in which he must sing several
"Act your pleasure. I am familiar with it," he said, smiling at the
way she had circumvented him in his refusal to sing alone.
Christine sat down and played her own accompaniment, while Dennis stood
at her side. He determined to do his best and prove that though he
swept a store he could also do something else. Many of the strains
were plaintive, and his deep and unconscious feeling for his fair
companion in song gave to his voice a depth, and at times a pathos,
that both thrilled and _touched_ the heart, and there were not a few wet
eyes in the audience. Unconsciously to himself and all around, he was
singing his love; and even Christine, though much preoccupied with her
part, wondered at the effect upon herself, and recognized the deep
impression made upon the audience.
As the last notes died away the sliding-doors were closed.
Dennis had achieved a greater success than Christine, because, singing
from the heart, he had touched the heart. His applause could be read
in moist eyes and expressive faces rather than in noisy hands. She saw
and understood the result. A sad, disappointed look came into her face,
and she said in a low, plaintive tone, as if it were wrung from her:
"There must be something wrong about me. I fear I shall never reach
true art. I can only win admiration, never touch the heart."
Dennis was about to speak eagerly, when they were overwhelmed by the
rush and confusion attendant on the breaking up of the entertainment.
Part of the older guests at once left for their homes, and the rest
stayed for supper. The parlors were to be cleared as soon as possible
for dancing. Christine was joined by her father, who had sat in the
audience, scarcely believing his eyes, much less his ears. Was that
the young man who was blacking old Schwartz's boots the other day?
His daughter was overwhelmed with compliments, but she took them very
coolly and quietly, for her heart was full of bitterness. That which
her ambitious spirit most desired she could not reach, and to the
degree that she loved art was her disappointment keen. She almost
envied poor Dennis, but she knew not the secret of his success; nor
did he, either, in truth. His old manner returned, and he busied himself
in rapidly packing up everything that he had brought. Mr. Ludolph, who
had received a brief explanation from Christine, came and said, kindly,
"Why, Fleet, you have blossomed out strongly to-day."
"Indeed, sir, I think I have never had a more rigorous pruning," was
When the story had been told Mr. Ludolph in full, he understood the
remark. Christine was waiting for the crowd to disperse somewhat, in
order to speak to Dennis also, for her sense of justice and her genuine
admiration impelled her to warm and sincere acknowledgment. But at
that moment Mr. Mellen came in, exclaiming, "Miss Ludolph, they are
all waiting for you to lead the dance, for to you is given this honor
by acclamation, and I plead your promise to be my partner"; and he
carried her off, she meaning to return as soon as possible, and
supposing Dennis would remain.
A moment after, light, airy music was heard in the front parlor,
followed by the rhythmical cadence of light feet and the rustle of
silks like a breeze through a forest.
For some reason as she went away Dennis's heart sank within him.
Reaction followed the strong excitements of the day, and a strange
sense of weariness and despondency crept over him. The gay music in
the other room seemed plaintive and far away, and the tripping feet
sounded like the patter of rain on autumn leaves. The very lights
appeared to burn dimmer, and the color to fade out of his life.
Mechanically he packed up the few remaining articles, to be called for
in the morning, and then leaned heavily against a pillar, intending
to rest a moment before going out into the night alone.
Some one pushed back the sliding-door a little and passed into the
room. Through the opening he caught a glimpse of the gay scene
within. Suddenly Christine appeared floating lightly through the waltz
gauzy drapery, as if in a white, misty cloud. Through the narrow opening
she seemed a radiant, living portrait. But her partner whirled her out
of the line of vision. Thus in the mazes of the dance she kept appearing
and disappearing, flashing in sight one moment, leaving a blank in the
crowded room the next.
"So it will ever be, I suppose," he said to himself, bitterly; "chance
and stolen glimpses my only privilege."
Again she appeared, smiling archly on the man whose arm clasped her
A frown black as night gathered on Dennis's brow; then a sudden pallor
overspread his face to his very lips. The revelation had come! Then
for the first time he knew--knew it as if written in letters of fire
before him--that he loved Christine Ludolph.
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